End in sight for Congo’s political crisis as two sides of divide agree terms for President Joseph Kabila’s exit

Kabila has been in power since the 2001 assassination of his father Laurent at the height of the Second Congo War

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 10:50pm

The government and opposition in the Democratic ­Republic of Congo have clinched a hard-

won deal over President Joseph Kabila’s fate, ending a political crisis that sparked months of deadly unrest.

Under the terms of the deal, Kabila will stay until the “end of 2017” but a transition council

will be established, headed by ­opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. In addition, a prime minister will be named from the opposition ranks.

The talks were launched by the Roman Catholic Church to ward off violence as Kabila’s ­second and final mandate ended on December 20 with no sign of him stepping down and no election in sight.

According to a working ­document for the deal, Kabila guarantees that he will not seek a third mandate. In return, the opposition accepted the president will remain in office until handing over power to an elected successor. The opposition had demanded his immediate departure.

The Catholic Church, which plays a key role in the vast central African country of 70 million people, launched the negotiations on December 8 and had hoped to see a deal before Christmas.

The bishops were “happy” to have succeeded in “reaching an inclusive political compromise”, said Archbishop Marcel Utembi, head of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.

The head of the UN Mission in the Congo, Maman Sidikou, also welcomed the deal but said “work must continue, it is necessary to safeguard political stability by implementing every point of this new political road map”.

Voters in DR Congo were originally to have chosen a new president in 2016, but the authorities said the electoral registers must be revised, a huge enterprise in a country almost the size of Europe.

Kabila, 45, has been in power since the 2001 assassination of his father Laurent at the height of the Second Congo War. He was confirmed leader in 2006 during the first free elections since independence from Belgium in 1960, and re-elected in 2011.