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DRC Government Rejects Opposition Demand for Election by Year's End

Supportes of Congo opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, rear, hold up a cross that symbolizes no third term for Congo President Joseph Kabila, during a political rally in Kinshasa, Congo, Wednesday, July 31, 2016.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has rejected fresh demands from the opposition that elections be held and President Joseph Kabila step down by December 20 of this year.

Addressing his supporters in Kinshasa on Sunday, opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi reportedly said it would be “high treason” if Kabila did not launch the electoral process by September.

“I think it is not ignorance but irresponsibility because President Kabila is not in charge of organizing election. According Congolese law, it is the electoral commission that organizes elections, and the electoral commission has already announced that there is no way to organize election before the end of this year because the electoral census has started and will not end before 10 months,” information minister Lambert Mende told VOA.

The 83-year-old veteran opposition leader Tshisekedi returned last week to Democratic Republic of Congo after spending two years abroad for medical reasons. Sunday's rally reportedly drew tens of thousands of supporters.

Opposition parties claim President Kabilia just wants to stay in power

The opposition has repeatedly accused President Kabila of working to push off elections to stay in office after his second mandate expires in December, something the government denies citing logistical challenges with the vote.

“The Constitutional Court has already said that if there is no election organized within that period as the constitution said, the incumbent president must remain in office until the elections are organized,” Mende said.

Some Kabila supporters have begun calling for a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.

The government has been urging the opposition to join the African Union-sponsored national dialogue intended to discuss the electoral process after the delay.

“That is why we say that a consensus is necessary so that we may have a peaceful electoral process,” Mende said.

Opposition claims AU facilitator favors Kabila

But Martin Fayulu, a member of the opposition coalition and leader of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party, told VOA just last week that the opposition will not participate in any dialogue with President Kabila because the African Union facilitator, former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo, is biased.

Instead, Fayulu said the opposition will participate in dialogue under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2277 which calls for discussions that respect the DRC constitution.