Congo authorities block opposition demonstration

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2016 5:06 AM

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo blocked an opposition demonstration in the capital on Saturday aimed at putting pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down next month at the end of his mandate, witnesses said.

The rally was banned and security forces maintained a heavy presence. They also prevented activists and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo from approaching the house of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, witnesses said.

"The sites where the meeting was to have taken place have been isolated," police spokesman Pierre Mwanamputu said in a statement. Police shut down a similar protest on Nov. 5.

Kabila named opposition figure Samy Badibanga as prime minister on Thursday under a power-sharing deal that allows the president to stay in office until at least April 2018.

The main opposition bloc denounced the choice as a provocation but its attempts to stop the government's agenda appear to be struggling to gain traction.

International powers fear the impasse could lead to violence in the giant Central African nation, where millions died in regional wars between 1996 and 2003. Fifty people died in anti-government street protests in September.

(Reporting by Kenny Katombe and Aaron Ross; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Dale Hudson)