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The government and opposition parties in the DR Congo on Saturday clinched a hard-won deal over President Joseph Kabila’s fate, ending a political crisis that sparked months of deadly unrest.
Under the terms of the deal, Kabila will stay until the “end of 2017” but a transition council will be established, headed by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
In addition, a prime minister will be named from the opposition ranks.
The talks were launched by the Roman Catholic Church to ward off violence as Kabila’s second and final mandate ended on December 20 with no sign of him stepping down and no election in sight.
The final deal was signed after 13 hours of negotiation on Saturday and only after several last-minute hitches nearly derailed an accord.
According to a working document for the deal, Kabila guarantees that he will not seek a third mandate.
In return, the opposition accepted the president remain in office until handing over to an elected successor.
The opposition had previously demanded his immediate departure from public life.
The Catholic Church, which plays a key role in the vast central African country of some 70 million people, launched the negotiations on December 8 and had initially hoped to see a deal before Christmas.
The bishops were “happy” to have succeeded in “reaching an inclusive political compromise”, said Archbishop Marcel Utembi, head of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.
The head of the UN Mission in the Congo (Monusco), Maman Sidikou, also welcomed the deal but said “work must continue, it is necessary to safeguard political stability by implementing every point of this new political roadmap”.
Voters in DR Congo were originally to have chosen a new president in 2016, but the authorities said the electoral registers must be revised, a huge enterprise in a country almost the size of Europe.