Congo President Joseph Kabila will not seek election for third term

Congo's Kabila will not stand in presidential election

Government spokesman Lambert Mende announced the decision on Wednesday, just hours before the deadline for candidates to register. "It is Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, permanent secretary of the (ruling) PPRD".

Late Tuesday, Kabila held talks with his political allies, who are joined in an electoral platform called the Common Front for Congo (FCC), on picking a candidate who would succeed him. The president's decision not to compete in the vote will assuage worldwide actors such as the U.S., United Nations and African Union, which had opposed his candidacy.

Mende said Ramazani was on his way to the electoral commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa to file his candidacy. "Tough pressure from Congo's regional and global partners must continue for the country to see a truly democratic transition and to prevent more repression and bloodshed in the months ahead".

Whoever wins the December 23 vote takes over a vast country with trillions of dollars' worth of mineral wealth but with dozens of armed groups battling for a part of it. Millions of Congolese have been displaced by various internal conflicts.

Kabila's second term ended in late 2016, but a new election was frequently postponed.

Kabila was elected in two previous elections and adversaries claim that he himself was the main obstacle to timely polls as he was reluctant to give up power.

He is a combative defender of Kabila and oversaw repeated crackdowns on protesters and pro-democracy groups as interior minister, especially in the aftermath of Kabila's refusal to quit power when his mandate expired in December 2016.

The country of 80 million people has never had a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960 from European colonial powers.

Several opposition candidates, including former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and the president of Congo's largest opposition party, Felix Tshisekedi, have also registered to run.

"We welcome reports that President Kabila will not seek a third term in accordance with his country's constitution", US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement.

The four men have said they may unite behind a single opposition candidate.

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