At least 16 DR Congo opposition activists have been detained in Kinshasa after meeting to discuss how to stop President Joseph Kabila illegally prolonging his stay in power, the UN said Friday.
“At least 16 people were arrested between yesterday and this morning after a meeting on respect for constitution and hand over of power,” Jose-Maria Aranaz, of the UN’s human rights office in DR Congo, told AFP.
Rights group Amnesty International had on Thursday accused authorities in mineral-rich DR Congo of “systematic repression” of those seeking Kabila’s departure when his third term runs out on December 20.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said he was surprised by the accusations, adding that authorities had freed several political prisoners in August.
Kabila, who has ruled DR Congo since 2001, is banned under the constitution from running again, but he has given no sign of intending to give up his job in December.
No elections have been announced and it would be practically impossible to organise a poll in the time left before his mandate runs out.
Protests erupted after the Constitutional Court ruled in May that Kabila, who took power after his father’s assassination, could remain in office in a caretaker capacity beyond the end of the mandate.
Authorities have been in talks with a minority opposition group this month to discuss ways out of the political crisis that has gripped DR Congo since Kabila’s disputed re-election in 2011.
But the main opposition party led by political veteran Etienne Tshisekedi is refusing to take part, saying the talks are a distraction designed to illegally prolong Kabila’s stay in power.
Tshisekedi’s group has urged people to take to the streets in nationwide protests next Monday to demand that the electoral commission calls a vote and that Kabila quits power on December 20.