Congo President Won’t Run Again in Long-Delayed Election

Kabila talks with religious leaders after a meeting with coalition members

Government spokesman Lambert Mende announced the decision on Wednesday, just hours before the deadline for candidates to register.

Kabila was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his constitutional mandate but the election to replace him was repeatedly delayed.

Demonstrations over the delay have turned deadly, with Pope Francis and others appealing for calm after police in January used tear gas to disperse ambassadors and others at a mass at Kinshasa's Catholic cathedral to honor protesters killed.

Kabila's political allies had floated various legal arguments they said would justify his running again but he came under strong pressure from regional allies like Angola as well as the United States and European Union to stand down.

Kabila instead nominated his interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor. He's also one of nine Congolese sanctioned past year by the European Union, which accused them of undermining democracy and abusing human rights. Another, Moise Katumbi, says Kabila is preventing him from returning to Congo and filing his papers.

Ramazani, a former governor of the eastern province of Maniema, served as interior minister from late 2016 until this February, when he was named permanent secretary of the PPRD.

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Kabila's choice of a die-hard loyalist suggests that the president, who came to power after his father's assassination in 2001, intends to remain closely involved in national politics.

Kabila will remain at the head of his People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and has installed loyalists across the federal bureaucracy, including in the courts and in the military.

Congo's President Joseph Kabila is not running again in December's long-delayed elections, easing concerns by the opposition and global community that he would try to stay in office and positioning one of Africa's most turbulent nations for its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.

Kabila being ruled out as a candidate is a "crucial first step" toward ensuring a credible electoral process in Congo, Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement.

So far, three major opposition leaders - Jean-Pierre Bemba, Vital Kamerhe and Felix Tshisekedi - have registered to compete in the presidential election.

The United States has also criticised plans to use electronic voting in the polls, saying the voting machines could undermine the credibility of the elections.

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