Heightened security in Congolese cities as Joseph Kabila's mandate comes to an end

An empty street in Kinshasa on 19 December 2016.
An empty street in Kinshasa on 19 December 2016. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP

Security forces have been deployed in several Congolese cities on the eve of the official end to President Joseph Kabila’s second mandate. The streets of the capital Kinshasa and eastern city of Goma were quiet on Monday, opposition politicians and activists told RFI. There were also reports of arrests ahead of protests expected to coincide with the end of Kabila’s mandate on Tuesday.


“Tomorrow the country will wake up without a president,” said Martin Fayulu, leader of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party, which is a member of the Rassemblement opposition coalition.

Kabila’s second term is set to end at midnight and he is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. However, the government has said it cannot organise elections until 2018 and the constitutional court ruled that he can remain in power pending the polls.

“The national assembly, the governors, the local assembly – all of them, they don’t have the mandate anymore from the people of Congo – we are in trouble,” said Fayulu.

Kabila has shown no sign of stepping down and several rounds of mediation between the government and opposition have failed to find a compromise.

The streets of the capital Kinshasa were quiet on Monday in anticipation of protests with little traffic circulating on the streets. “It’s a ghost town,” said Fayulu, “nobody’s on the streets”.

It was a similar story in Goma, according to an activist with the civil society Lucha (Fight for Change) movement. “Since this morning, we’ve seen security forces – so the police, elements from the army – positioned in all the city’s hotspots, at all the roundabouts,” said Serge Sivya.

Lucha, which is leading the Bye Bye Kabila campaign, is anticipating protests to coincide with the end of Kabila’s mandate. “We’re in the middle of preparing ourselves and mobilising the people because for a long time it was already expressed that the constitution must be respected,” said Sivya, by telephone from Goma, in North Kivu.

Eleven members of opposition parties and activists were arrested, according to Fayulu and Sivya. He said three people from his own party as well as three from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), three from the Social Movement for Renewal (MSR) party besides others were arrested early on Monday. “One Lucha activist was also arrested,” said Sivya.

Kabila has been in power since 2001 when his father Laurent was assassinated. He was elected in 2006 and in 2011, although the opposition said the country’s last polls were rigged.

“Tomorrow the president of the republic will no longer be president because today it’s his final day,” said Sivya. “He must truly leave power because that’s it, that’s democracy.”

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