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After much bloodshed and two years of brutal political repression leading up to and following the December 19, 2016, deadline that marked the end of President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit, participants at talks mediated by the Catholic Church signed an agreement on New Year’s Eve 2016.It includes a clear commitment that presidential elections will be held before the end of 2017, that President Joseph Kabila will not seek a third term, and that there will be no referendum nor changes to the constitution.As with past electoral calendars that CENI and government officials have blatantly disregarded, the new calendar includes a list of 15 legal, financial, and logistical “constraints” that could impact the timeline.The CENI’s announcement comes about a week after the United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Congo, where she announced before meeting with Kabila that Congo’s long-delayed elections must be held by the end of 2018 or they would not receive international support.More protests are planned across the country in the coming days to reject the CENI’s newly announced calendar.Congolese government officials and security forces should not use unnecessary or excessive force against protesters, tolerate peaceful protests and political meetings, and allow activists, opposition party leaders, and journalists to move around freely and conduct their work independently, without interference.The Struggle for Change (LUCHA) citizens’ movement strongly denounced the calendar presented by the CENI yesterday as “fantasy” and called on the Congolese people to mobilize to defend themselves peacefully against the “shameful maneuver by Kabila and his regime to gain more time to accomplish their goal of staying in power indefinitely.” LUCHA stated that the movement no longer recognizes Kabila and his government as the legitimate representatives of the Congolese people and urged Congo’s international partners to do the same.
According to the calendar released yesterday by the CENI, the new president would be sworn in on January 12, 2019, and the whole electoral cycle, including local elections, would continue until February 16, 2020.
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Kabila himself has repeatedly refused to say publicly and explicitly that he will not be a candidate in future elections.
The extra year the new calendar gives Kabila allows him more time to attempt constitutional or extra-constitutional means to stay in power.