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DRC Minister: Kabila has no Intention to Change Constitution

FILE - Protesters in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
FILE - Protesters in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s information minister said President Joseph Kabila has no intention to amend the country’s constitution to stay in power.

Lambert Mende said the DRC is not Burkina Faso and rejected comparisons between President Kabila and Blaise Compaore, the former Burkina Faso president who tried to change his country’s constitution to remain in power but was forced out of office by protesters.

“They tried on the 19th of January to have a Burkina Faso-style of developments here in Congo, and I’m sure that people are now waking up to the fact that Congo is not Burkina Faso. President Kabila is not the president of Burkina Faso and our people are not the people of Burkina Faso,” Mende said.

Meanwhile, the DRC’s senate on Thursday delayed its vote on a proposed electoral law that opponents say would allow President Kabila to stay in office beyond the end of his term in 2016.

The senators said they will vote on the bill January 23.

Mende accused the opposition of spreading “lies” about President Kabila’s intentions. He said the government condemns the violent protests.

“The violence is something we condemn, and the police have been working to stop. We were expecting a peaceful demonstration, but now we are witnessing violence and looting. So the police have been busy suppressing it, and I think that we succeeded yesterday. And we hope that the situation is now under control,” Mende said.

A human rights group had said 42 people had been killed in protests against the bill since Monday, mostly in the capital, Kinshasa.

But government spokesman Mende said only 12 people had been killed, including a policeman.

The United States this week called on Congolese security forces, civil society, and opposition members to refrain from acts of violence.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki reminded the Congolese government of the importance of protecting political space and ensuring that all citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and exercise their rights to free speech.

Mende said President Kabila has always said the constitution will strictly be respected.

“I’m sure that any intellectual who can read this law will see that there is no link between the census which is necessary to dispatch the number of elected people and the time in office of President Kabila. Kabila has said often that the constitution will strictly be respected. But we are seeing that many people within the opposition are fond of telling lies about President Kabila. Unfortunately, some of our partners would not hear what Kabila is saying,” Mende said.

Mende admitted that his government shut down some radio stations, Internet sites, and text messaging. But he said the measures were temporary.

“Two radio stations were closed and the Ministry of Post and Communication closed temporarily Internet because they were being used to spread violence,” Mende said.

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