General strike affects DR Congo's two main cities

WEB_PHOTO_KABILA_DAMAGED_BILLBOARD_19_09_2016

Demonstrators point at a broken billboard of DRC President Joseph Kabila, Kinshasa 19 September 2016. Police fired tear gas at the protesters who demanded that Kabila step down when his term ends, but he has given no indication that he will.

KINSHASA - A general strike called by the opposition to force Congolese President Joseph Kabila to share power on Monday slowed business activities in the capital Kinshasa and the second city, Lubumbashi.

"We've followed the watchword ... because we are suffering greatly. Let him (Kabila) quit power, he has finished his mandate, we want no more of him," Mamie Biamba, a resident of the lively Kingasani district of Kinshasa, told AFP.

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An umbrella alliance of parties known as the Rassemblement ("Rally") urged people to stop work in protest at Kabila's failure to implement a power-sharing deal signed on 31 December and to appoint a prime minister from the opposition.

The president's constitutional mandate ran out last year at the end of his second five-year elected term. His unwillingness to enable elections and step down led to protests in September that left some 50 people dead.

At 8am, shops and service stations remained closed in Kinshasa and public transport was scarce, with people walking from their homes in eastern working-class districts to their workplaces in the city centre.

The situation was similar in distant Lubumbashi, according to witnesses in the vast country's mining capital, about 1,570 kilometres southeast of Kinshasa.

"One shop in five is open," a resident told AFP, while a bank manager stated that work was slowed down and several of his staff had failed to show up.

"I was almost alone on the roads and I charged high fares," taxi driver Nyembo Muyumba said in Lubumbashi.

But some people voiced indifference to the strike call, which followed pressure on Kabila by the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union to abide by the December deal.

"We're not concerned by appeals from politicians. Our problem is to find something to feed our children, send them to school," said Albertine Bulanga, who sells maize in a Kingasani market.

"Life has become unbearable for the little people like us while they (the politicians) have cushy lives.