Legislation to provide protection for former Congolese presidents may be underway

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Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament will hold a special session to consider legislation providing legal protection for former presidents, sources from the chamber said. The request is coming at President Joseph Kabila’s request, the sources added. It was not immediately clear when that session would take place.

The latest development could be a further sign that President Kabila intends to step down after an election in December despite speculation that he is trying to circumvent term limits that forbid him from running again. However, he has refused to publicly commit to leaving office.

“At the request of the president of the republic, an extraordinary session will be convened,” lower house speaker Aubin Minaku told deputies on Friday at the close of the latest parliamentary session.

“We will examine several items including the law on the status of former chiefs of state, the designation of a new member of the constitutional court and the law on the tax to promote industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala told Reuters this week that Kabila would not be a candidate, the clearest declaration yet from a senior government official on the matter.

Under the constitution, former presidents already receive broad immunity from prosecution as senators for life.

Kabila succeeded his assassinated father as president in 2001. He was required by the constitution to step down in December 2016 but the election to replace him has been repeatedly delayed.

Since then, security forces have killed dozens of anti-Kabila protesters while surging militia violence has raised the specter of a repeat of civil wars around the turn of the century that cost millions of lives.

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