Congo opposition wants strike as election delayed until 2017

AP , Sunday 21 Aug 2016

A coalition of Congo's opposition parties is calling for a general strike after the country's electoral commission said a presidential election once meant for November won't be held until next year.

The national dialogue begins Tuesday on a new electoral timeline, but the coalition says it won't take part because multiple conditions have not been met. It urges a strike that day instead.

Congo's opposition has long expressed concern that President Joseph Kabila wants an election delay to remain in power beyond his mandate, which ends in December.

The electoral commission announced late Saturday that voter registration for the election would not be ready until July 2017 because of logistical issues and lack of money.

Kabila, in power since 2001, is barred from running for a third term under the constitution. The constitutional court in May said the president should remain in office until a new leader is elected.

Since Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960, there has never been a peaceful, democratic transition of power.

The opposition coalition, recently formed by popular opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, said in a statement that it rejects the upcoming national dialogue's African Union-appointed mediator, Edem Kodjo, saying he has ties to Kabila.

The coalition also said that of the 24 people pardoned by Congo last week, only four were on its list of more than 100 political prisoners it wanted freed to participate in the dialogue. It also called for more media freedoms and said arbitrary arrests of opposition members continue.

The country's third largest opposition party, however, said it would participate because of the presence of the international community. "The dialogue is to prepare for elections to set out an electoral calendar for the departure of Kabila," said Jean Bertrand Ewanga, secretary-general of the Union for the Congolese Nation.

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