DR Congo opposition chiefs demand political change without Kabila

Kinshasa (AFP) - The two main opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for a political transition without President Joseph Kabila to prepare for long-delayed elections.

Felix Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbe, allied in an opposition coalition called Rally, issued their call on the eve of a crisis meeting at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday to discuss the political stalemate caused by Kabila's refusal to stand down after his second mandate ended in December last year.

Tshisekedi, the son of late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, signed a statement with Katumbi on Monday in which they accused Kabila of failing to respect of the constitution and a December 2016 agreement which provided for elections within a year.

"In order to prevent the legal vacuum and chaos foreseen when elections are not held by December 31, 2017 at the latest, (we) demand a transition without Mr Kabila, who has become illegal and illegitimate," they wrote.

They proposed that the transition in the vast central African country "be led by eminent consensual personalities tasked with preparing for the democratic, free, transparent and peaceful elections that are not possible either with Mr Kabila or with the electoral commission in its current shape".

The joint statement was also signed by a range of civil society activists. They ruled out any notion of a constitutional referendum intended to alter the length of a presidential term and the number of mandates.

Kabila was first propelled into office after his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, was assassinated in January 2001, during the Second Congo War. The young soldier won a first elected five-year term in 2006 in a poll organised with the help of the large UN mission deployed in the country.

Challenged by Etienne Tshisekedi in 2011, Kabila was declared re-elected by the electoral commission, but the opposition cried foul and observers from the European Union and the Carter Center reported serious irregularities.

Katumbi is the influential former governor of mineral-rich Katanga province.