KINSHASA (Reuters) — Protests that blocked a reform which could have extended Congo President Joseph Kabila's rule have exposed deep rifts in his ruling coalition and galvanized opposition, increasing the chance of further unrest ahead of elections due next year.
Kabila took power in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2001 following the assassination of his father, and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011 in Africa's largest copper producer. But he is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
"This is the first time that you've seen popular pressure in the streets of Kinshasa have a dramatic impact on policy," said Jason Stearns, a Congo analyst at the Rift Valley Institute.
"The question of Kabila's term limits is turning out to be something that a broad swathe of Congolese opinion can rally against regardless of political affiliation, regardless of ethnic belonging."
Significantly, the opposition's calls for street demonstrations were given a huge boost by student protesters at the University of Kinshasa, where hundreds clashed on campus with police and members of the military's elite Republic Guard.