Kabila to step down after elections in new deal

Agreement reached by Congolese political parties aims to have transitional government in place by March next year.

    Joseph Kabila will step down as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo after elections held before the end of 2017, under a draft agreement reached by political parties, according to a lead mediator from the Catholic Church.

    Under the deal, reached on Friday but not yet signed, Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to extend his mandate and run for a third term, said Marcel Utembi, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in the Congo.

    A transitional government will be put in place by March next year, said Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from neighbouring Kenya.

    "During the time of the transitional government, they will be looking at appointing a prime minister from the opposition. That was vital for the opposition because it needed a bigger stake in the government," she said.

    She said politicians in exile may also be allowed to return without a fear of prosecution.

    However, "there seems to be a number of questions around opposition politicians within DRC who have been arrested. They won't necessarily be freed anytime soon," she said.

    "What this agreement is talking about is a sort of commission to be set up that would look at these political prisoners case-by-case and determine their fate."

    If the deal is finalised, it will be Congo's first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

    Kabila's two-term mandate ended on December 19, but authorities have effectively extended it until 2018.

    His actions led to demonstrations, with security forces killing about 40 people just last week alone.

    Western and African powers feared the failure to secure a peaceful transition of power could lead to a repeat of conflicts seen between 1996 and 2003 in eastern Congo in which millions died, mostly from starvation and disease.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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