World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of people protested in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, calling on President Joseph Kabila to respect his country's constitution and step down when his second elected term ends in 2016.
A march in Kinshasa was peaceful but protesters in Goma, the biggest town in the volatile east, were dispersed by tear gas.
The country is rife with speculation that Kabila is looking for ways to remain in charge of the vast, mineral-rich nation that has been plagued by decades of conflict.
In Kinshasa, protesters demanded dialogue with the government over the holding of presidential elections in 2016, even as many denounced Kabila as illegitimate
"We don't want any more Mr Kabila. The people are tired," said Bruno Mavungu, secretary general of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) party.
"The Congolese people are saying: no one touches the constitution," he told Reuters as he took part in a 11 km (7 mile) march that set off from the iconic monument to Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first elected prime minister.
Kabila came to power in 2001 when his father, Laurent, was assassinated in the middle of a conflict that sucked in regional armies and aid workers say ended up killing millions.
He steered the country to post-war elections in 2006 and won re-election in 2011, although the second vote was marred by complaints of widespread irregularities.
Kabila said this week at the United Nations General Assembly that he would stick to a calendar of local and national elections due in 2015 and 2016. But critics say that he intends to rejig the constitution to allow him to stand for a third elected term in power.
Some allies of the president have already endorsed the idea, though Kabila has remained silent on the subject despite pressure from American and other foreign officials to commit to stepping down in 2016.
Earlier this month, Kabila reshuffled his top military command, a move some analysts said pointed to his determination to put loyalists in key positions as he prepares the ground for a potentially volatile period.
"By promoting some of his key confidants and keeping potential spoilers in check, Kabila is likely to be preparing the elite echelons of the security forces for the turbulence associated with the constitutional revision process," Christoph Wille, Africa analyst at Control Risks, said in a note.Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2014, 17:34