TOUGH ROAD AHEAD? DRC President Joseph Kabila

Joseph Kabila will step down as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo after elections held before the end of 2017, under a draft agreement reached by political parties, according to a lead mediator from the Catholic Church.

Under the deal, reached on Friday but not yet signed, Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to extend his mandate and run for a third term, said Marcel Utembi, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the DRC.

A transitional government will be put into place by March next year, media sources said.

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If the deal is finalised, it will be DRC’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

Kabila’s two-term mandate ended on December 19, but authorities have effectively extended it until 2018.

His actions led to demonstrations, with security forces killing about 40 people just last week alone.

Western and African powers feared the failure to secure peaceful transition of power could lead to a repeat of conflicts seen between 1996 and 2003 in eastern DRC in which millions died, mostly from starvation and disease.