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Democratic Republic of Congo

Fears of instability as hopes fade for DR Congo talks

The US and the EU are ratcheting up pressure on the DR Congo leadership to reach a deal with the opposition, who have been angered by President Joseph Kabila's unwillingness to step down.

Negotiations aimed at ending the political stalemate in the DR Congo were set to resume on Tuesday. The talks between officials loyal to President Joseph Kabila and the anti-Kabila coalition known as Gathering (Rassemblement), which backs veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi, were launched last week by DR Congo's Catholic Church, which is also acting as a mediator.

It seems unlikely that Kabila will bow to the opposition's main demand that he leave office when his mandate expires on December 19.

"He is preparing for a violent confrontation with the opposition in Kinshasa. The security services in Kinshasa have been on the alert for several weeks and security in the capital has been reinforced. It is pretty clear that President Kabila does not intend to leave and wants to remain in power even by force,"   Thierry Vircoulon, a researcher at the Paris-based French Institute for International Affairs, told DW.

Delayed elections 

The DR Congo government says the election to select President Kabila's successor, originally scheduled for last month, cannot be organized until April 2018 because of the need to register millions of new voters.

Vircoulon says the April 2018 election date is unacceptable to Kabila's rival Etienne Tshisekedi. There was also another obstacle to an agreement at the church-mediated talks. "The opposition would like Kabila to say publicly that he will not run as a candidate again and it is pretty clear from the presidential camp than he does not intend to do that."

Etienne Tshisekedi Kongo Wahlen (picture-alliance/dpa)

Etienne Tshisekiedi is backed by Gathering, a coalition of mainstream oppostion parties

In September, 50 people were killed by security forces in anti-government protests in DR Congo.

On Monday, the United States and the European Union announced sanctions on Congolese officials.

The US Treasury said the government in Kinshasa was continuing to "undermine democratic process in the DRC  and to repress the political rights and freedoms of the Congolese people"   

Three generals already on US list 

The US sanctions target interior minister Evariste Boshab and the head of the country's intelligence service (ARV), Kalev Mutondo.  Three Congolese generals were placed on the US sanctions list earlier this year.

Any financial assets they possess in the US are blocked, and Americans are generally barred from engaging in financial transactions with them.

Boshab, who oversees the police, was previously the secretary general of Kabila's ruling party and Kalev is regarded by rights groups as the mastermind behind a crackdown on opposition and activist groups.     

Demokratische Republik Kongo Joseph Kabila (Getty Images/AFP/J.D. Kannah)

Opposition politicians accuse President Jospeh Kabila of manipulating the electoral process in order to stay in power

     

The EU was imposing sanctions on DR Congo officials for the first time, listing Ilunga Kampete, who commands the Republican Guard, and six others, including Kinshasa's police commissioner and intelligence officials.  The security apparatus "had exercised a disproportionate use of force," the EU said. The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes.

The EU also called on the government to cooperate with "a transparent and independent investigation" to bring those responsible for the violence to justice. 

Security deployment to opposition stronghold 

The EU sanctions were immediately condemned by Kinshasa government spokesman Lambert Mende. "These sanctions are illegal because they are a sort of imperial law that is at odds with international law. The DR Congo, a non-European country, condemns them and intends to take actions against them," he said.  

Vircoulon is pessimistic. "Both the opposition and the presidential camp seem to be anticipating the failure of the talks. I am saying that because there are signs of deployment of additional security forces in the Kasai region, which is an opposition stronghold."  

Tshisekedi's  team "was already talking about setting up a parallel government." 

  

 

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