DR Congo opposition leader returns to challenge Kabila

Felix Tshisekedi took over as leader of the opposition movement after his father Etienne Tshisekedi – a long-time opponent of Kabila – died in February in Belgium, aged 84. Photo: Eric Lalmand / Belga / AFP

KINSHASA - Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has returned to the capital, Kinshasa, and plans to challenge President Joseph Kabila, who has so far refused to set a date for presidential elections.

Tshisekedi’s arrival at Ndjili airport on Sunday coincided with the arrest of four opposition activists by the police during a demonstration that was also showered with teargas.

“We picked up three or four people who did not obey police orders. They will be set free,” national police spokesman Pierrot Mwanamputu told AFP.

Police told the demonstrators on Saturday that Sunday’s planned demonstration by the opposition coalition was banned on the grounds it could provoke violent clashes.

Shortly after his arrival, the opposition leader travelled to his home in Kinshasa’s Limete neighbourhood.

Tshisekedi took over as leader of the opposition movement after his father Etienne Tshisekedi – a long-time opponent of Kabila – died in February in Belgium, aged 84.

READ: DR Congo opposition launches two-day strike against Kabila

Kabila has been repeatedly asked by the opposition to step down after his second-term ended in December, with the constitution barring him from standing for re-election.

The country’s authorities, which have yet to fix a date for the next election, promised last week to publish quickly a “realistic” electoral timetable.

However, the international community remains concerned about the political instability in the country of 70 million people.

One of the problems facing the organisation of elections was the continuing violence in the central, diamond-rich Kasai region, where a rebellion has been going on for a year now, the electoral commission chief said last month.

Both the government and rebels are accused of atrocities in Kasai.

WATCH: SADC should act on Congo election problems: Mbeki

Last month, about 40 leaders of citizens’ movements, civil society organisations, Catholic Church representatives, and other independent Congolese leaders launched the “Manifesto of the Congolese Citizen", following a three-day meeting in Paris to discuss the “return of constitutional order” to the DRC, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.

The two-page document made the case that Kabila had violated the country’s constitution by using “force and financial corruption” to stay in power and “entrench his regime of depredation, pauperisation, and the pillaging of the country’s resources for the benefit of himself, his family, his sycophants, and his foreign allies in Africa and beyond”.

It further stated that Kabila and a “group of individuals” had “deliberately refused to organise elections,” in defiance of the constitution’s two-term presidential term limit and the Catholic Church-mediated New Year’s Eve agreement, a power-sharing deal calling for elections to be held by December 2017.

African News Agency

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