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Congo opposition demands new government before repatriating leader's body
February 8, 2017 / 4:49 PM / 10 months ago

Congo opposition demands new government before repatriating leader's body

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest opposition party said on Wednesday it would not agree to bring home the body of its recently deceased leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, until President Joseph Kabila names a new power-sharing government.

Mourners pay tribute to Democratic Republic of Congo's veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi during a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Tshisekedi, who died in Brussels last week aged 84, led Congo’s main opposition bloc during negotiations in December that resulted in a deal obliging Kabila to step down after elections this year.

His death has already sparked clashes between supporters and security forces in the capital Kinshasa, and further delays to the funeral would be likely to amplify tensions.

Kabila, in power since 2001, stayed on as president when his constitutional mandate expired on Dec. 19, sparking unrest that stoked fears of Congo sliding back into the anarchy and civil war of the turn of the century.

In a statement, Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) made the return of his body conditional on all funeral costs being picked up by the forthcoming unity government.

Implementation of the power-sharing deal has stalled over disagreements between Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition over the composition of the government, which Tshisekedi’s son Felix is tipped to lead.

Kabila’s government has offered to pay for a state funeral but has said it is unreasonable to install the new administration before Tshisekedi is buried.

The UDPS also said that Tshisekedi, a former prime minister under President Mobutu Sese Seko, must be buried in a mausoleum in the centre of Kinshasa.

(The story was refiled to correct the final paragraph to say Mobutu was president, not prime minister)

Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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