Tension rises as talks on Joseph Kabila exit break off

Ruling coalition and opposition fail to strike a deal as president seeks to stay in power, stoking fears of bloodshed.

    Kabila has been in power for nearly 16 years [File: Kenny Katombe/Reuters]
    Kabila has been in power for nearly 16 years [File: Kenny Katombe/Reuters]

    Talks in Democratic Republic of Congo between the ruling coalition and the opposition have failed to reach a compromise on the political future of President Joseph Kabila, who intends to stay in power when his mandate ends on Monday.

    Growing tension on the ground in DRC was visible on Saturday. Police set up road checkpoints in the capital Kinshasa, while the Republican Guard patrolled its administrative district near the presidential palace.

    DRC opposition calls for strike

    Delegates said negotiations will resume on Wednesday once the Catholic bishops mediating the discussions return from a trip to Rome.

    "There is no deal," said Jean-Marc Kabund, secretary-general for the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party of the main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi.

    "The ruling majority is sitting on its positions and refuses to offer any concessions on matters that require a political response," he said.

    Felix Tshisekedi, an opposition leader, wrote on Twitter: "The discussions have failed. Congolese people, the ball is in your court! We have reached the end of our efforts."

    More than a dozen protesters killed in DRC clashes

    He told Reuters news agency the opposition would not organise a protest so as not give the government "an opportunity to fire on the population", but said he expected people to remain mobilised and protest "each in his own way".

    Another opposition leader, Joseph Olengankhoy, was more circumspect, saying the talks had made "significant progress", but more work remained to be done.

    Violence expected

    The international community has warned the current tension could descend into violence, and Western diplomats in Kinshasa this week urged all non-essential nationals to leave the country.

    The government has ordered social networks - including Facebook and WhatsApp - be blocked from 11:59pm (2259GMT) on Sunday.

    READ MORE - DRC: Social networks to be blocked from midnight Sunday

    Kabila is required by constitutional term limits to step down after nearly 16 years in power. His government says it cannot organise a presidential election until 2018.

    The country of 70 million people has never experienced a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

    Some two decades ago, Congo sunk into the deadliest conflict in modern African history, with its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragging in at least six African armies and leaving more than three million dead.

    Inside Story - Is the president of the DRC clinging on to power?

    SOURCE: News agencies


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