The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has laid rest to months of speculation that he will run in upcoming elections by naming former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as the ruling coalition’s candidate.
Presidential hopefuls had until August 8 to announce their candidacy which has also seen former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba and the leader of Congo’s largest opposition party Felix Tshisekedi formalise their intentions.
Kabila, in power since 2001, has extended his stay in government since 2016 when his two-term limit officially ran out.
Within that period opposition to his rule has amplified and many of the country’s provinces have been marred by protests and heavy-handed police crackdowns.
Moise Katumbi, ex-Governor of Katanga Province and popular opposition figure, has been forcibly blocked from returning to lodge his candidacy.
Still, Kabila’s retreat will ease fears that the country will descend into turmoil around the December 23 election period.
At the same time Kabila’s successor Shadary is under European Union sanctions for alleged human rights abuses including deadly clampdowns by security forces on protesters.
Although Kabila mulled legislation providing legal protection for former presidents over the summer, the law was not passed, and it remains to be seen what part he will play in potentially the country’s first peaceful transition of power.