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General strike halts economic activities in Congo


A ONE-DAY general strike in Democratic Republic of Congo paralyzed most economic activities in the capital yesterday in a bid to pressure President Joseph Kabila to quit power when his mandate ends in December.

Traffic on the normally bustling streets was greatly reduced, few of the shared taxis that ferry much of the city’s workforce were running and the central market was largely empty, witnesses said. Some schools were closed.

There was a heavy police presence in Kinshasa and the second city Lubumbashi, but no reports of violence.

“For us, this (strike) is an important action against an irresponsible government,” said Abdul Mpia, 39.
Others said the strike was causing hardship in a city where many make a living as street sellers or market traders.

“We should wait until November when (Kabila) finishes his mandate,” said a woman who identified herself as Mama Lily. “For now, let us work.”

The constitution bars Kabila from standing again in elections slated for November, but critics fear he wants to change the law or delay the poll to retain power.

Kabila came to power when his father was assassinated in 2001. He won elections in 2006 and 2011 that the opposition says were rigged. The duration of his tenure has raised tension in a country that has never known a peaceful handover of power. More than 40 died in a police crackdown on protests in January 2015.

In neighboring Burundi, the president’s decision to serve a third term has triggered nine months of violence in which at least 440 have died, and the United States has said it is deeply disappointed with a bid for a third term by the president of next-door Rwanda.