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Congo legislature mulls law on ‘protecting’ ex-presidents ahead of vote

The Democratic Republic of Congo has had just four presidents since 1968 – Joseph Kabila, 47, is the only one who is still alive/AFP

KINSHASA, DR Congo, Jun 20 – The two houses of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s legislature on Wednesday were called to an extraordinary session to examine a law “on the status and protection of former presidents”, a move that comes in the runup to a key presidential election.

The lower house, the National Assembly, said the session would begin at midday and run until July 19, state TV reported. Senators also received messages requesting their attendance.

Six issues on “the status of elected former presidents of the republic” are to be debated in the proposed law, a project first aired three years ago.

The move comes amid fierce speculation about whether President Joseph Kabila will seek another mandate in the December 23 elections.

He is facing a wave of contention over his record as president and refusal to step down when his two terms in office reached their constitutional limit on December 20, 2016.

Elections that should have been held that year were rescheduled for 2017, and postponed again to 2018.

Kabila has stayed on thanks to a constitutional clause that enables a sitting president to remain in office until his or her successor is elected.

The 47-year-old has been in office since 2001, succeeding his assassinated father.

His tenure has been stained by a reputation for corruption, poor governance and abuse of human rights. Despite its mineral wealth, the sprawling country is mired in poverty and beset by regional conflicts.

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The country has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. It has had just four leaders, and Kabila is the only one still alive.

Tensions have been mounting in recent months, sparking fears that the conflict-prone nation could spiral into war if Kabila runs again or the elections are postponed.

The National Assembly will also discuss a report on the national electoral commission and the replacement of some members — another sensitive issue in the elections.

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