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Turnout low in DR Congo’s day of protest

Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | A day of protest in Democratic Republic of Congo drew only a small turnout on Tuesday, dealing a blow to opposition hopes of unseating President Joseph Kabila over delayed elections.

Rallies were held in several cities but were attended by only a few dozen people, although traffic and economic activity in some towns seemed below normal, witnesses said.

The opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress had called for nationwide protests ahead of two key anniversaries in DRC’s crisis.

Kabila’s mandate formally ended on December 20 2016. He refused to step down, fuelling political confrontation and violence that caused dozens of deaths.

The Catholic church stepped in, brokering a deal on New Year’s Eve enabling Kabila to stay in office pending elections that were to be held in 2017.

Those elections, in turn, have been postponed until December 23 2018.

The plan has the reluctant support of western nations, which insist that the new deadline be firmly kept and that the government uphold the right to protest and of freedom of assembly

The opposition has said it wants a transition “without Kabila” after December 31, in line with the 2016 New Year’s Eve peace agreement.

Its protest campaign has met with a police crackdown that has led to fatalities and arrests.

Kabila took office after his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001 at the height of the Second Congo War.

He was confirmed as leader in 2006 during the first free elections since independence, and re-elected for a second term in 2011 in a vote marred by accusations of fraud.

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