Talks in Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday between the ruling coalition and the opposition failed to reach a compromise on the political future of President Joseph Kabila, who is set to stay in power when his mandate ends on Monday.
Delegates said the talks will resume on Wednesday once the Catholic bishops mediating the negotiations have returned from a trip to Rome to meet the pope.
The opposition wants elections next year and for Kabila to pledge he will step down after nearly 16 years in power and not stand for a third term, which would breach Congo’s constitution. The government says it cannot organize a presidential vote until 2018, however, and the constitutional court ruled in May he can stay on until the election.
The capital Kinshasa is on edge ahead of planned protests against what opponents say is a bid by Kabila to cling to power. The presidents of neighboring Rwanda and Congo Republic both changed their constitutions last year to allow themselves to stand for third terms.
It was not immediately clear what impact Saturday’s announcement would have, particularly given the limited popular appeal of opposition politicians, many of whom have cycled in and out of power over the decades.
Felix Tshisekedi, an opposition leader, wrote on Twitter: “The discussions have failed. Congolese people, the ball is in your court! We have reached the end of our efforts.”
But another opposition leader, Joseph Olengankhoy, was more circumspect, telling Reuters the talks had made “significant progress” but that more work remained to be done.
The opposition delegation at the talks pushed for the presidential election to take place next year but offered mixed signals about who would govern the country in the interim.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters on Saturday he was confident the two sides would reach a compromise after the bishops met in recent days with Kabila and the main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi.
The bishops said in a statement they “are happy to see that we are capable of producing a large consensus on the questions that divide us even if such a process might take time”.
Mende said authorities had taken measures to prevent violence on Monday. Police in Kinshasa have set up checkpoints to search cars and the government has asked telecoms companies to cut most social media services from Monday.
Congo has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960 and world powers fear protests could spark violence in the chronically unstable central African giant.