"Villes mortes" (dead cities) was the main feature of the opposition's general strike in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) called on Tuesday, 23 August. In the capital, Kinshasa, police fired tear gas against demonstrators who demanded that President Joseph Kabila should resign.
Reports described empty streets, closed shops and demonstrations. Many students stayed home from the universities. In Kinshasa, protesters erected barricades nearby the opposition party UDPS' headquarters after they were attacked by police. In Goma, in eastern Congo, young demonstrators stopped traffic in a district but in most of the city few were out on the streets. The day of protest was called both a general strike and "villes morts" (dead cities), as the strike call saw workers and employees stay at home.
UDPS veteran leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, is one of the opposition leaders boycotting the invitation to talks from the government and African Union envoy, Edem Kodjo, from Togo. Demonstrators also demanded that Kodjo should resign, as he is seen as close to Kabila.
Kabila's corrupt and brutal regime operates to extend his term in office. Under the constitution, a president can have two periods. Kabila's second term is due to end on 19 December, this year.
The regime claims that a new electoral register can be completed in July 2017. Only then will a timetable for new elections be presented. The government said it wants local and regional elections before there can be presidential elections. A court has decided that Kabila can remain in power in the meantime.
Pattern of Burundi?
This follows the pattern of events in Rwanda, neighbouring Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) and Burundi, where the incumbent presidents gained additional terms. In Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term was announced last year, it caused an uprising that lasted for weeks, as well as an attempted coup and extreme instability.
During January 2015, the DRC was shaken by mass protests against Kabila. Around 40 young demonstrators were killed by state security forces.
At the forefront of current protests is the population of Beni in the northeast part of the country. Two people were killed a week ago during protests against the military failing to protect the local population against a rebel force which had carried out a massacre. Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and two other ministers were shouted down when they visited the city. The different armed groups in Congo are often linked to mining and raw materials that are developed by private companies with government contracts. UN reports claim that the Congolese army also participates in massacres.
New protest wave are on their way. "We are waiting for 19 December ... Kabila cannot stay. The population will be on the streets every day", one protester told Reuters.
Western powers, which paid for the running of the last elections, when Kabila won by fraud, now fear that the protests will disrupt their economic interests in DRC and may even plunge the country into new civil wars. They are therefore trying to contain Kabila's provocative maneuvers or maybe persuade him to resign ‘voluntarily’. But Kabila's opinion is that he should remain in office.
The DRC urgently needs a democratic socialist party, with a programme and strategy for struggle against the regime and imperialist plunder.