Catholic organizations and the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) opposition parties are planning to hold demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila in the capital city of Kinshasa on Friday, February 16, and Sunday, February 25. The Lay Committee of Coordination (CLC) is organizing a march on February 16 to commemorate the anniversary of a Catholic demonstration in 1992 that was violently dispersed by security forces. Members of the Catholic community and political opposition groups will also take to the streets on February 25 to call for President Kabila to step down from office. Opposition leaders are calling for both protest marches to remain peaceful. Specific details regarding the march routes and times have not been released as of Monday, February 12. Heightened security measures are to be expected in the vicinity of the protests. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Tensions are high between the country's Catholic community and the government. The DRC is experiencing a political crisis that stems from President Kabila's refusal to step down after his term expired in December 2016. Catholic activists have planned multiple anti-Kabila demonstrations in recent months; clashes with security services led to the deaths of at least three protesters on January 21.
Under a deal struck between the government and the opposition, long-awaited presidential, legislative, regional, and local elections were supposed to take place before the end of 2017. However, in November 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced that elections would be set to take place one year after this deadline, on December 23, 2018. The opposition coalition denounced the timeframe, insisting that Kabila leave office by the end of 2017, and demanded that a transitional administration be put in place immediately and presidential elections be held in January 2018.
Individuals present in the DRC, particularly in Kinshasa, 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.
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