UN mission in the DRC braces for clashes as leader's term ends

web_photo_Joseph_Kabila_10052016

File: Democratic Republic Congo's President Joseph Kabila.

File: Democratic Republic Congo's President Joseph Kabila.

web_photo_Joseph_Kabila_10052016

File: Democratic Republic Congo's President Joseph Kabila.

File: Democratic Republic Congo's President Joseph Kabila.

NEW YORK – The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is bracing for violence ahead of the official end of President Joseph Kabila's term on December 20, amid moves to extend the leader's mandate.

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In an address to the Security Council, which was holding talks on the country after at least 31 people died in weekend clashes, UN Special Representative to DR Congo Maman Sambo Sidikou spoke of a "sense of apprehension".

"Drawing lessons from the violent events of the 19th and 20th of September 2016, Monusco has further updated its contingency plans and is further adjusting its posture and deployment to mitigate politically driven violence and to protect civilians," he said, referring to the UN mission.

In Kinshasa, Goma and Lubumbashi, Monusco (UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has deployed teams to track "human rights violations and restrictions of political space", the envoy said.

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"These teams are designed to deploy into areas without a permanent Monusco presence but which are deemed at high risk of politically driven violence."

The question of Kabila's succession has triggered a renewed political crisis in the DRC, a vast resource-rich nation riven for decades by rival power struggles.

The Security Council was due to adopt a unanimous declaration initiated by France demanding that the country's political actors reach a "broad consensus towards free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely presidential and legislative elections leading to a peaceful transfer of power".

Kabila, who has been elected to two presidential terms, is barred from serving again but has never said he plans to step aside.

Last month, he cut a power-sharing deal, appointing fringe opposition politician Samy Badibanga as prime minister in a move that effectively extends his term to at least late next year.

Kabila came to power after the murder of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila by a bodyguard in 2001 during the Second Congo War, which ended two years later.

Elected in 2006, he went on to win a second five-year term in a 2011 vote that the opposition decried as rigged.