DR Congo parliament increases privileges to ex-presidents

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament has passed a law expanding financial privileges for former presidents, lawmakers said on Thursday, a move many see as an incentive to convince President Joseph Kabila to step down later this year.

The DR Congo is scheduled to conduct a presidential vote in December to seek Kabila’s replacement, two years after he was due to step aside.

Kabila was scheduled to leave office in December 2016 after he completed his second and final term as prescribed by the constitution, but the failure to conduct a presidential election meant he stayed on.

Opposition leaders accused the president of frustrating the electoral process to cling on to power, accusations he denied.

Kabila’s refusal to step down sparked clashes in the country, killing dozens and displacing hundreds of thousands.

If the DR Congo holds its election as expected in December and Kabila does step down, it would mark the country’s first democratic transition since independence from Belgium in 1960 after decades marked by authoritarian rule, coups and catastrophic civil wars.

The law adopted by parliament on Wednesday includes post-presidency perks including a pension, housing, security, health care and a diplomatic passport, national deputies Juvenal Munubo and Jean-Luc Mutokambali said.

The version that has been sent to Kabila for his signature also extends those privileges to other government officials, including the heads of the National Assembly and Senate. The Senate’s original version would have only applied to ex-presidents.