Johannesburg – Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has returned to the capital Kinshasa and plans to challenge President Joseph Kabila who has so far refused to set a date for presidential elections.
Tshisekedi’s arrival at Ndjili airport on Sunday coincided with the arrest of four opposition activists by the police during a demonstration which was also showered with teargas.
“We picked up three or four people who did not obey police orders. They will be set free,” national police spokesperson Pierrot Mwanamputu told AFP.
The demonstrators were told on Saturday by the police that Sunday’s planned demonstration by the opposition coalition was banned on the grounds it could provoke violent clashes.
Shortly after his arrival the opposition leader travelled to his home in Kinshasa’s Limete neighbourhood.
Tshisekedi took over as leader of the opposition movement after his father Etienne Tshisekedi – a long-time opponent of Kabila – died in February in Belgium, aged 84.
Kabila has been repeatedly asked by the opposition to step down after his second-term ended in December 2016, with the constitution barring him from standing for re-election.
The country’s authorities, which have yet to fix a date for the next election, promised last week to quickly publish a “realistic” electoral timetable.
However, the international community remains concerned about the political instability in the African country of 70 million people.
One of the problems facing the organisation of elections is the continuing violence in the central, diamond-rich Kasai region, where a rebellion has been going on for a year now, the electoral commission chief said last month.
Both the government and rebels are accused of atrocities in Kasai.
Last month, about 40 leaders of citizens’ movements, civil society organisations, Catholic Church representatives, and other independent Congolese leaders launched the “Manifesto of the Congolese Citizen,” following a three-day meeting in Paris to discuss the “return of constitutional order” to the DRC, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.
The two-page document made the case that Kabila had violated the country’s constitution by using “force and financial corruption” to stay in power and “entrench his regime of depredation, pauperisation, and the pillaging of the country’s resources for the benefit of himself, his family, his sycophants, and his foreign allies in Africa and beyond”.
It further stated that Kabila and a “group of individuals” had “deliberately refused to organise elections,” in defiance of the constitution’s two-term presidential term limit and the Catholic Church-mediated New Year’s Eve agreement, a power-sharing deal calling for elections to be held by December 2017.