Congo delays presidential vote to 2018, opposition plans strike

DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo’s ruling coalition and other smaller parties have agreed to delay next month’s elections to April 2018.

The move was said to have angered opposition groups who have accused the president of trying to cling onto power.

The main opposition bloc had already called a general strike for Wednesday to press President Joseph Kabila to leave at the end of his mandate in December.

Congo’s main opposition bloc was not immediately available for comment.

Last month dozens died in two days of protests in the capital Kinshasa.

The protest was 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 organization in the discussions, the Union for the Congolese Nation.

Delegates at the talks would likely ratify the decision on Monday October 17, 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, said he would respect the constitution.

He is, however, 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 contest for a third term, and Kabila’s opponents said they feared he would 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 said was unconstitutional.