President Joseph Kabila of Congo will step down after elections to be held by the end of 2017. This was part of a last-minute deal struck by political parties on Friday.
Reuters reports that negotiators spent weeks in tense talks seeking to ensure Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. But it remains unclear if elections can be organised by the end of next year, or if leading politicians, including Kabila, will keep to the terms.
“The government is asked to take all steps so that the elections are organised by the end of 2017 at the latest,” said Marcel Utembi, president of Congo’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which has mediated the talks.
Under the deal, which is expected to be formally signed on Saturday, Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to allow him to stay in power for a third term.
Kabila’s mandate ran out on December 19, 2016 but authorities have effectively extended it until 2018 because the government said it could not arrange elections before then.
The parties agreed that Kabila will appoint a prime minister from the country’s main opposition bloc to oversee the transition, a major sticking point in the final stages of the talks.
Neither Kabila nor the country’s leading opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, are expected to sign the deal, raising concerns about whether it will be respected.
Spokesmen for the government and Kabila’s ruling coalition were not available for immediate comment, Reuters reports