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DR Congo's Kabila will not stand for re-election: spokesman

Ruling coalition nominates former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate.

Joseph Kabila

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila will not stand for re-election in December, a government spokesman has announced. 

Kabila's ruling coalition nominated former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate, Lambert Mende, the government spokesman, said on Wednesday.

The move put an end to years of speculation on whether Kabila would defy terms limits.  

The government waited until the last moment to announce Kabila's decision not to run. The electoral commission allowed candidates to register until Wednesday afternoon. 

Kabila, whose second term officially ended in 2016, is constitutionally ineligible for December's poll, although his rivals accused him of wanting to stay in power.

Shadary, a close ally of Kabila, used to also serve as deputy prime minister. He has been sanctioned by the European Union for alleged human rights violations in 2017. 

Shadary counts as one of Kabila's most loyal followers but, as a politician, is not very popular among DR Congo's roughly 80 million people. 

"It's a rare bird," said Mende after the announcement, refusing to answer journalists' questions about the candidacy.

Several opposition candidates have registered for the poll, including former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who had convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity overturned in June.

Another candidate is Vital Kamerhe, leader of opposition party Union for the Congolese Nation and former national assembly president, who came third in the 2011 election.

Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the largest opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress, who is the son of late opposition activist Etienne Tshisekedi, also filed his candidacy.

Opposition candidate Moise Katumbi was, however, refused entry to the country last week, after spending two years in exile in Belgium.

The former governor of the wealthy Katanga province and former Kabila ally was convicted in absentia of real-estate fraud in 2016. He has denied the charges, saying they were used to obstruct his political career.

The country has seen widespread anger over what some see as Kabila's refusal to relinquish power after the end of his second full term in December 2016.

Kabila came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, the country's third president.

He was elected in 2006 in the DRC's first democratic election since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila secured a second term in 2011, though that election was plagued by allegations of widespread voter fraud.

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