Troops deploy in DR Congo as Kabila’s mandate expires

Kinshasa: People stayed home across Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, leaving troops to patrol ghost cities as tension peaked hours before President Joseph Kabila’s mandate ends, but with no election in sight.
Kabila’s second term expires at midday on December 20, but he has shown no sign of stepping down and talks on a pre-election transition have failed, sparking fears of fresh political violence in the mineral-rich but unstable nation.
Normally teeming Kinshasa, the megacity capital of 10 million people, was a shadow of itself on Monday, with barely any traffic on the main roads, public transport at a minimum, and soldiers and police outnumbering passers-by. Shops were shuttered in the main square and there were tense scenes at Kinshasa University, where dozens of police and troops held back hundreds of students, AFP journalists said.
In the volatile east, torn by two decades of armed conflict, five rebels, a South African peacekeeper and a Congolese police officer were killed when militia fighters attacked several buildings in Butembo, including the prison.
Kabila, who has been in power for 15 years, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term but under a recent constitutional court order he may stay on until a successor is chosen.
The ruling party and some opposition leaders have agreed to schedule an election in April 2018, leaving Kabila in office until the vote.
In Kinshasa, journalists were prevented from entering the university grounds by security forces and irate students, but students reached by telephone said they had been planning “to march peacefully” to parliament to demand Kabila step down. — AFP