Protests in the DRC against the recently announced electoral calendar - and resulting continued tenure of President Joseph Kabila through 2018 - took place on Wednesday, November 15, resulting in the arrests of numerous opposition demonstrators, the closure of commercial establishments and schools, and traffic disruptions. According to the Fight for Change (LUCHA) opposition movement, some 40 protesters were reportedly arrested in the east of the country (North and South Kivu provinces) on Wednesday; the DRC National Police asserted that seven others were arrested in Lubumbashi, six arrested in Matadi, and that one was shot in Kinshasa.
Though several local media sources stated that the protests were largely suppressed by Congolese security forces, disruptions to traffic and commerce were also reported in several large cities. Schools and universities, commercial establishments, and public transport reportedly suspended activities in Goma; most schools in Kinshasa were closed on Wednesday. Protests and sporadic transportation disruptions (e.g. burning tires, burning buses, barricades, etc.) led to decreased activity in several cities, notably in Lubumbashi and Butembo; Kindu, Bandundu, Boende, Mbuji-Mayi, and Kananga also reportedly witnessed mostly peaceful protests that had a limited effect on daily activities on Wednesday.
The Congolese political opposition has called for additional protests on November 28; traffic disruptions and political violence is likely during any such future demonstrations.
Tensions were high on Wednesday between police and opposition demonstrators as police reportedly threatened to repress all gatherings "without mercy," despite UN calls to respect fundamental freedoms of assembly.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced on November 5 that long-awaited presidential, legislative, regional, and local elections would take place on December 23, 2018. The opposition coalition has denounced the timeframe, insisting that current President Joseph Kabila leave office by the end of 2017, that a transitional administration be put in place immediately, and that presidential elections be held in January 2018.
The current political crisis stems from Kabila's refusal to step down after his term expired in December 2016. Under a deal struck between the government and the opposition, elections were supposed to take place before the end of 2017.
Individuals present in the DRC are advised to monitor the situation, maintain a high degree of situational awareness, and avoid all rallies and demonstrations due to the risk of violence.