France says EU ties with Congo must be reviewed, fears ‘terrible civil war’

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York, 25 September 2014. [MONUSCO Photos / Flickr]

France called on the European Union to re-examine its relations with Democratic Republic of Congo, fearing that President Joseph Kabila’s decision not to step down after his mandate expired might trigger “a terrible civil war”.

Security forces shot dead several protesters who had gathered in the streets of the capital Kinshasa on Tuesday to demand that Kabila step down after his mandate expired overnight.

“Everything has been done and done again these last days and hours to encourage dialogue,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters alongside new Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.

“We need to be clear. There comes a time when if nothing happens, then Europe must reconsider the level of relations with this country. We can’t continue to pretend as if nothing is happening.”

International powers fear that Kabila’s refusal to leave power on Dec. 19, as required by the constitution, could lead to widespread violence after security forces killed about 50 people in anti-government protests in September.

Tensions mount in DR Congo as end of president's term nears

Security forces patrolled the streets of Kinshasa yesterday (18 December) after the suspension of last-ditch talks seeking a peaceful end to a crisis sparked by the end of Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s mandate.

“We really don’t want this country to fall into chaos – (we want) that it is saved from a terrible civil war,” Ayrault said.

The European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes earlier this month – its first – on seven senior Congo security officials it says have violated human rights and helped disrupt elections.

Diplomats said further sanctions could be a possibility as well as reviewing all aspects of relations between Congo and the bloc.

EU slaps DR Congo officials with sanctions after anti-Kabila deaths

The EU yesterday (12 December) imposed sanctions against seven top DR Congo security officials for their role in deadly clashes with protesters against President Joseph Kabila.

The European Union on 12 December imposed sanctions against seven top DR Congo security officials for their role in deadly clashes with protesters against President Joseph Kabila.

More than 50 people died in the September violence and European Union foreign ministers had warned in October they would act if Kabila showed no sign of leaving office when his term ends on 19 December.

Ministers decided “to impose restrictive measures against the seven individuals who hold positions of authority in the chain of command over the Congolese security forces which have exercised a disproportionate use of force”, an EU statement said.

The EU wants polls and a new government to ensure stability in the DR Congo, a mineral-rich and strife-torn former Belgian colony that sits astride Africa’s strategic crossroads.

Joseph Kabila first took office in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila and a 2006 constitutional provision limited the presidency to two terms.

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