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No deal reached on DR Congo protest march

Demonstration by opponents of President Kabila looks set to go ahead Sunday

Gulf News

Kinshasa: A protest march by opponents of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila looked set to go ahead Sunday after authorities and organisers failed to agree an official route, after two similar rallies were brutally put down last month.

Kinshasa governor Andre Kimbuta on Saturday invited organisers to a working session to “examine an appropriate itinerary”.

But it ended without a deal when members of a key opposition group didn’t show, according to an official text seen by AFP.

Fifteen people were killed by security forces on New Year’s Eve and January 21 in peaceful protests that sought to heap pressure on Kabila to step down, according to a toll by the UN and organisers. The government says two people died.

Sunday’s march in Kinshasa has been called by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), an organisation close to the church, an influential social and spiritual force in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kinshasa city authorities have “neither authorised nor banned” the planned march, according to officials.

Political tension in DR Congo has been mounting since September 2016, when clashes between youths and security forces left dozens dead in Kinshasa.

Fears have multiplied that a sprawling, chronically unstable country, which experienced wars from 1996-97 and from 1998-2003, could explode into violence once more, shaking central and southern Africa.

Kabila, who took over from his assassinated father in 2001, is at the helm of a government that critics and grassroots groups say is freighted with corruption and incompetence.

He was due to stand down from office in December 2016, ending his second elected term, but he has stayed on under laws enabling him to retain power until his successor is elected.

Under a deal brokered by the church, he agreed that polls would be held by the end of 2017.

But this plan fell through because of what the authorities called “logistical problems” in preparing the vote.

Late in January, Kabila said that he stood by the latest timetable to hold elections — on December 23 this year, two years later than scheduled. But he has refused to state clearly whether he intends to stand again.