Day of protest flops but DRC opposition to fight on

By: 
AFP
Source: 
AFP

Kinshasa - A day of protest in Democratic Republic of Congo drew a small turnout on Tuesday but the opposition vowed to pursue its campaign to unseat President Joseph Kabila over long-delayed polls.

Rallies were held in several cities but were attended by only a few dozen people, although traffic and economic activity in some towns seemed below normal, witnesses said. At least 30 people were arrested.

The opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) had called for nationwide protests ahead of two key anniversaries in DRC's crisis.

"We may lose the battle but the war continues," said opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi from the "Rassemblement" (Unity) coalition, blaming the poor turnout on rain and a "lack of coordination."

Normal life and traffic slowed in the capital Kinshasa and there were more police than usual.

A police spokesperson told AFP Tshisekedi was stopped from leaving his house.

Political confrontation and violence

"He was prevented from taking part in a show of force. He understood, he complied and he went inside," Pierre Mwanamputu said. 

Mwanamputu said two members of Tshisekedi's UDPS party were arrested in the central Kasai region. "We arrested 27 people in Kindu," in the centre-east, he added. 

In the second city Lubumbashi, three youths were arrested after smashing the windows of a courthouse and trying to burn it, a police spokesman told AFP.

There were failed attempts to stage marches in the eastern city of Bukavu. 

Kabila's mandate formally ended on December 20, 2016. He refused to step down, fuelling political confrontation and violence that caused dozens of deaths.

The Catholic church stepped in, brokering a deal on New Year's Eve enabling Kabila to stay in office pending elections that were to be held in 2017.

Right to protest 

Those elections, in turn, have been postponed until December 23, 2018.

The plan has the reluctant support of western nations, which insist that the new deadline be firmly kept and that the government uphold the right to protest and of freedom of assembly.

The opposition has said it wants a transition "without Kabila" after December 31, in line with the 2016 New Year's Eve agreement.

Its protest campaign has met with a police crackdown that has led to fatalities and arrests.

Kabila took office after his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001 at the height of the Second Congo War.

Joseph Kabila was confirmed as leader in 2006 during the first free elections since independence, and re-elected for a second term in 2011 in a vote marred by accusations of fraud.

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