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Africa

DR Congo crisis talks 'suspended' amid fears of political violence

Talks in DR Congo to resolve a political deadlock are to resume only next week. Mediators fear that a failure to resolve differences between the opposition and President Kabila could lead to political violence.

Crisis talks between Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila's party and the opposition have been "suspended" until next week, said mediators of the Catholic Church on Saturday.

Under the Congolese constitution, Kabila (shown above) is banned from standing for a third presidential term. However, he has shown no signs that he will step down when his second term officially ends on Monday.

"Given the breadth of the topics, participants came to the conclusion that these questions should not be dealt with hastily," said Monsignor Marcel Utembi, who heads the Congolese bishops conference (CENCO).

"Meanwhile, we ask everyone to pray for our country," he added, fearing the political deadlock may prompt political violence.

Church leaders have warned that the failure to find a political settlement may lead to "an uncontrollable situation."

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) criticized Kabila for failing to reach a deal ahead of the Monday deadline.

"The ruling majority is sitting on its positions and refuses to offer any concessions on matters that require a political response," said UDPS Secretary General Jean-Marc Kabund.

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DR Congo: The cost of activism

Under pressure

Preparing for protests slated for Monday, the government ordered social networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to be blocked from 11:59 pm (2259 UTC) Sunday. Police also constructed roadblocks in the capital, Kinshasa, to prevent mass assembly.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Saturday warned government forces of using violence against Congolese citizens ahead of the Monday deadline.

"We call on the government, and especially its security forces, to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly," said al-Hussein.

Congo has witnessed the deadliest conflict in modern African history, with two wars in the late 1990s and early 200s that left more than 3 million people dead.

In September, clashes between protesters and police prompted by the electoral commission's failure to schedule new elections left more than 50 people dead in the capital.

ls/kl (AFP, AP)

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