* Kabila term expires Monday, no new election organised
* Talks with opposition stall, fears of violence
* Government blocks social media, sets up checkpoints
(Adds Kabila chief diplomat, more arrests in Goma, Kinshasa,
Cape Town protests)
By Aaron Ross and Tim Cocks
KINSHASA, Dec 19 Protesters gathered in
Democratic Republic of Congo's capital and at least one other
city on Monday amid a heavy military presence before protests
due once President Joseph Kabila's mandate runs out at midnight.
Hundreds of anti-Kabila demonstrators defied a ban on
marches against the president's plans to stay in office past the
end of his term. Security forces blocked access to Kinshasa
University, facing off against groups waving red cards saying
"Bye, bye Kabila," as time ticked down to midnight.
Militia fighters raided a jail in eastern Congo's Butembo
trying to free prisoners, triggering clashes that killed a South
African U.N. peacekeeper and a police officer.
Seven attackers were also killed, Kabila's chief diplomat
Barnabe Kikaya told a news conference in Kinshasa.
Opposition activists have accused Kabila of trying to cling
to power by letting his term run out without an election to
chose the next leader of Congo, which has not witnessed a
peaceful change of power since independence in 1960.
"Kabila's mandate finishes at 1159 ... Tomorrow (Tuesday) it
will be chaos," said Hugue Ilunga, 21, as dozens of soldiers
deployed nearby in the capital, an opposition stronghold of 12
Shops shut in other parts of Kinshasa, where streets were
At least 80 protesters were arrested in the eastern city of
Goma, the U.N. human rights office in Congo said, mostly
activists who were simply wearing red shirts, an opposition
colour. Police said nine opposition demonstrators were detained.
Kabila's elite Republican Guard also arrested prominent
opposition activist Franc Diongo in Kinshasa, Kikaya said, after
Diongo's private guards beat up three of them.
"FLIRTATION WITH DISASTER"
The government and elections officials have blamed
logistical and financial problems for the delay in the vote,
currently scheduled for April 2018.
Some opposition leaders agreed Kabila can remain in office
until then. The constitutional court has also ruled that Kabila,
leader since his father was assassinated in 2001, can stay on.
But the main opposition bloc rejects the deal as a ploy,
though it said it would not call protests. Talks mediated by the
Roman Catholic church failed to reach a compromise.
"Joseph Kabila will remain in office tomorrow," Kikaya said.
Authorities have blocked most social media and outlawed
protests in Kinshasa, raising fears of more violence in a nation
that has been plagued by war and instability for two decades
since the fall of kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko.
Diplomats fear any escalation could trigger a conflict like
the 1996 to 2003 wars that killed millions, sucked in
neighbouring armies and saw armed groups clash over Congo's
mineral wealth and use of mass rape as a strategic weapon.
U.S. Great Lakes envoy Tom Perriello on Thursday called
Kabila's hanging on "an entirely unnecessary flirtation with
disaster" in a speech at the United States Institute of Peace.
Youth activists say they have taken inspiration from Burkina
Faso in West Africa, where protests ousted Blaise Compaore in
2014 as he was trying to extend his 27-year rule.
As in Burkina, protests in Congo are in part driven by
economic desperation. Congo is Africa's biggest miner of copper
and metals used in gadgets, like cobalt and coltan, but a
slowdown linked to falls in commodity prices has triggered steep
budget cuts and a 30-percent fall in the Congolese franc.
The country of 70 million people and more than 200 ethnic
groups is fragmented, though. Previous protests achieved little.
Former colonial master Belgium advised its citizens to leave
before Monday. The United States warned against non-essential
travel, telling expatriates who remain to stay indoors.
Outside Congo, South African police used stun grenades to
disperse anti-Kabila protesters in Cape Town.
(Additional reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg and Amedee
Mwarabu in Kinshasa; Editing by Tom Heneghan)