Day of protest flops but DRC opposition to fight on


United Nations MONUC soldiers on APCs and Congolese police guard their headquarters after two days of violent anti-UN protests in the Congolese capital 05 June 2004.

KINSHASA - A day of protest in the 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.

The opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress had called for nationwide protests ahead of two key anniversaries in DRC&39;s crisis.

READ: EU warns DRC of election funding risk over &39;harassment&39;

"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 bustling capital of Kinshasa and there were more police than usual. A van was parked on a road leading to Tshisekedi&39;s house.

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&39;s mandate formally ended on 20 December 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&39;s Eve enabling Kabila to stay in office pending elections that were to be held in 2017.

Those elections, in turn, have been postponed until 23 December 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 31 December, in line with the 2016 New Year&39;s Eve peace 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.

He 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.