Kinshasa - The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo was under heavy military watch Friday on the eve of a summit of French-speaking nations, while the opposition planned to demonstrate.
The main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) had long announced its plans to hold rallies during the summit in Kinshasa, but the authorities have taken steps to clamp down on any such project.
The Republican Guard has been deployed on main roads and a big cordon has been set up around the Palace of the People, where the summit is due to take place over the weekend and where the UDPS planned a sit-in protest.
Police trucks, full of men in helmets and boots, were present even in the smallest sidestreets. A military helicopter overflew the Limete district, which is home of UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi, and where police asked his supporters to disperse.
“On the whole, it is very calm,” French paramilitary police officer Laurent Lefebvre, of the UN analysis unit in DR Congo, told AFP. “The authorities did what was needed for that, by declaring a public holiday without transport and by posting police everywhere.”
Opponents of President Joseph Kabila have been encouraged by statements made by French President Francois Hollande.
Before leaving on his first trip to Africa, the Socialist head of state said Tuesday that the situation in DR Congo was “totally unacceptable in terms of human rights, democracy and the recognition of the opposition.”
This stance was hotly rejected by the Congolese government and Hollande moderated his tone on Thursday by acknowledging that “progress (had been) accomplished.”
Hollande is due to meet Tshisekedi on Saturday and the veteran UDPS leader has asked party activists to join him.
A score of heads of state are expected at the biennial summit, which mainly gathers leaders of former French colonies.
The meeting is taking place in a vast nation greatly weakened by years of fighting in the east. The main clashes currently pit the army against Tutsi mutineers, who have Rwandan support, according to the United Nations.
“I don't accept that the borders of this great country can be threatened by aggression from outside,” Hollande said Thursday. - Sapa-AFP