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Sat Dec 03 06:38:19 CAT 2016

Congo delays presidential vote to 2018, opposition plans strike

Reuters | 2016-10-16 14:54:32.0
Congolese civilians walk past a house and vehicles which were burnt during anti-government protests to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, September 21, 2016.
Image by: KENNY KATOMBE / REUTERS

Democratic Republic of Congo's ruling coalition and other smaller parties have agreed to delay next month's elections to April 2018 - a move that will anger opposition groups who have accused the president of trying to cling onto power.

Congo's main opposition bloc was not immediately available for comment but has already called a general strike for Wednesday to press President Joseph Kabila to leave at the end of his mandate in December.

Last month dozens died in two days of protests in the capital Kinshasa against planned delays to the vote due to what authorities said were logistical problems registering millions of voters in the massive and impoverished country..

Parties agreed in talks on Saturday to give more time for voter registration and keep Kabila in office until the delayed vote, said one organisation in the discussions, the Union for the Congolese Nation. Delegates at the talks would likely ratify the decision on Monday, the statement said.

UNC president Vital Kamerhe is widely expected to become prime minister as part of the power-sharing government ushered in under the talks.

Kabila, who came to power in 2001 when his father was assassinated, says he will respect the constitution but has yet to rule out attempting to change the country's laws to enable him to run for a fresh term.

The presidents of neighbouring Rwanda and Congo Republic changed their constitutions last year to allow themselves to stand for a third term, and Kabila's opponents say they fear he will do the same.

Hundreds of people have also died since last year in neighbouring Burundi after its president Pierre Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term in office that his opponents say is unconstitutional.

The head of the U.N. mission in Congo warned last week that the political impasse poses an "extreme risk" to stability. Millions died in regional conflicts between 1996 and 2003 and Congo has never experience a peaceful transition of power.

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