Congolese use picks, shovels to fight Kabila’s DRC President-For-Life bid

Democracy is a dangerous thing, especially in this connected age where the Internet allows instantaneous flow of information at the touch of a cell phone button. Beijing knows this all too well, hence the Great Firewall of China and in-house censors at news organisations. Increasingly nowadays in Africa where such control is absent, political leaders abusing power do so at their peril. Robert Mugabe has managed to loot the public purse and destroy the Zimbabwean economy while staying atop his precarious perch. That’s largely because the Disapora of his well educated and often desperate countrymen has generated remittances to families, staving off the worst consequences of those destructive policies. But as wanna-be Mugabe’s are discovering, like everyone else on earth, Africans love the idea of being able to vote leaders in and out of power. The current chaos in Burundi was sparked by a Big Man trying to change the rules to his own advantage. DRC President Joseph Kabila wants to do likewise. He is starting to feel the heat. Long live democracy. And the Internet. – Alec Hogg

By Aaron Ross

LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Police in Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining hub fired tear gas on Tuesday at opposition supporters brandishing sticks and shovels who were protesting against arrests targeting youth leaders.

Political unrest has spread across the country, Africa’s top copper producer, as opposition parties accuse President Joseph Kabila of seeking to circumvent a constitutional term limit and hang onto power beyond the end of his current mandate next year.

Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila

Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwamza, president of the National Union of Federalists of Congo (UNAFEC), said soldiers arrested about 15 youth members early on Tuesday at the party’s headquarters in Lubumbashi, the main city in the copper-rich Katanga region.

“It is simply provocation and harassment,” he said. “The people in power know that they are going to fail. That is why they don’t want there to be elections. They want to provoke problems so that the elections don’t happen.”

Read also: African examples encourage Zuma’s 3rd term ambitions; but he should be wary

UNAFEC is one of several parties that were expelled from the ruling coalition in September after they demanded immediate steps to ensure that a presidential election scheduled for November 2016 is held on time.

A local police commander said problems initially arose early on Tuesday as a result of UNAFEC youth members who he claimed were hassling people at one of the city’s public markets.

Later, several hundred UNAFEC supporters shouted abuse at dozens of police officers massed near the party’s headquarters before some began throwing stones at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas.

Read also: SA interest in DRC’s reluctant Kabila stepping down – no handover, no Inga

Several African governments, including Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo’s smaller neighbour Congo Republic, have changed their constitutions or are taking steps to do so in order to prolong long-ruling presidents’ time in power.

Kabila’s spokesman has repeatedly stated that he plans to respect the constitution and on Monday he called for a national dialogue on the organisation of the elections.

“The President of the Republic promises to put in place a preparation committee to determine the format and the issues to be treated,” Senate president Leon Kengo wa Dondo told the body.

A number of opposition figures have already rejected the proposed talks, however, claiming it is part of a strategy to delay the polls.