Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DRC High Court Says Kabila Can Stay in Power if Election Delayed
May 11, 2016 | Agency Staff

Opposition warns of ‘constitutional coup d’etat’ if President Kabila stays in office beyond his mandate

KINSHASA — Democratic Republic of Congo’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that President Joseph Kabila would stay in power beyond the end of his mandate if his government failed to hold an election due in November.

Mr Kabila’s opponents denounced the ruling — they had previously argued that an interim president should serve after Mr Kabila’s term expired if the election was delayed.

Mr Kabila succeeded his assassinated father as president in 2001, then won his first election in 2006. The constitution requires that he step down in December after two five-year terms in office.

The government has said the election to choose Mr Kabila’s successor is likely to be delayed by budgetary and logistical obstacles.

"Article 70, clause two, (of the constitution) permits the president of the republic … to remain in office until the installation of the new elected president," the constitutional court’s president, Justice Benoit Lwamba Bindu, said from the bench on Wednesday.

Opposition leaders say Mr Kabila is trying to delay the election so he can hold on to power. He has declined to comment publicly on his intentions and called instead for a national dialogue to allow elections to take place.

Eve Bazaiba, secretary-general of the opposition Movement for the Liberation of Congo, said the court was neither independent nor politically neutral.

"If the court violates the constitution, we are not going to follow the court," she said. "On December 19, the mandate of Kabila is over. On December 20, if he continues, we will consider that there has been a constitutional coup d’etat."

Ramazani Shadari, the deputy secretary-general of Kabila’s political party, said outside the court that the ruling is a "victory for the people" and thanked the court.

Political tensions are high in Congo over the question of Mr Kabila’s succession. On Wednesday, police in Congo’s second city, Lubumbashi fired tear gas at thousands of supporters of Moise Katumbi, a leading opposition candidate to succeed Mr Kabila.

Mr Katumbi, a former Katanga provincial governor and one-time Kabila ally, faced a second day of questioning over government allegations that he plotted against the republic by hiring mercenaries, including former US soldiers.

The charges could send Mr Katumbi to jail and prevent him from running. Mr Katumbi denies the allegations, which he says are politically motivated.

Police also used tasers at the protesters and arrested at least 10, according to a witness.


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