Congo’s president Kabila pulls out of long-delayed election

Published: August 09, 2018 11:36:40 | Updated: August 14, 2018 10:43:16

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 72nd General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, Sept 23, 2017 - Reuters

Congo’s President Joseph Kabila will not stand in the election scheduled for December, a spokesman said, finally agreeing to obey a two-term limit but picking a hard-core loyalist under European Union sanctions to stand instead.

The announcement on Wednesday by spokesman Lambert Mende that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would represent Kabila’s ruling coalition in the Dec 23 vote came just hours before the deadline to register candidates.

“We are all going to align behind (him),” Mende said.

Kabila was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his constitutional mandate, but the election to replace him was repeatedly delayed.

That sparked protests in which the security forces killed dozens of people, and stoked militia violence in Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile east.

Kabila had come under strong pressure from regional allies such as Angola as well as the United States and EU to stand down, says a Reuters report.

The selection of Ramazani, 57, is, however, a defiant move. He is under EU sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, including deadly crackdowns by security forces on protesters.

Kabila’s choice of a die-hard loyalist suggests that the president, who came to power after his father’s assassination in 2001, intends to remain closely involved in national politics.

A Ramazani victory could lead to a continuation of Kabila’s policies, including a tough line on the mining sector, where foreign investors hope the government will walk back steep tax hikes approved earlier this year.

Congo is Africa’s top producer of copper and the world’s leading miner of cobalt, which is prized for its use in batteries for electric cars and other electronics.

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