The United States has welcomed the decision by Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to not seek re-election, saying the ruling party's move to name a candidate other than Kabila "represents a significant step forward for Congolese democracy."
"We are encouraged by this sign that he (Kabila) intends to uphold his commitments to the Congolese constitution and the terms of the December 2016 St. Sylvestre agreement by not seeking a third term," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
"The Congolese people must be free to express their views and choose from the candidates without fear of violence, threats, or intimidation," Nauert added. "We call on DRC's National Independent Electoral Commission and Congolese authorities to take the necessary steps to guarantee credible elections on December 23, 2018."
Kabila has said he will support former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary in the upcoming presidential election.
Kabila should have stepped down at the end of 2016 when his second term expired, but he invoked a constitutional clause allowing him to remain in office as a caretaker.
The uncertainty fueled political tensions and sparked anti-Kabila protests that were violently suppressed.
The country of 80 million people has never had a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960 from European colonial powers