(Reuters) – Two ministers resigned from Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Friday, raising pressure on President Joseph Kabila to name a new cabinet ahead of elections next year that are causing rising political tension.
Kabila has ruled the vast central African nation for 14 years but is barred from standing again. His spokesman says he will respect the constitution but critics say he is using violence and manipulating laws to prolong his rule or engineer a third term.
Civil service minister Jean-Claude Kibala and land affairs minister Bolengetenge Balela quit their posts after refusing to sign a loyalty pledge to Kabila’s majority coalition, Florent Mulumba, national executive secretary of the Social Movement for Renewal, told Reuters.
The Movement is one of seven parties whose leaders were expelled from the Presidential Majority coalition this week for signing a letter demanding that Kabila relinquish power when his term expires.
Four pro-democracy activists were sentenced on Friday to six months in prison in the eastern city of Goma for inciting disobedience in a verdict that human rights groups say is part of the pre-election crackdown.
The activists from Struggle for Change (Lucha) were arrested as they encouraged residents to protest the detention of fellow activists by whistling and banging pots and pans.
Defense lawyer Matthieu Mugisho vowed to appeal and said the court found them guilty of inciting disobedience to public authorities and also gave them 12-month suspended sentences.
In the worst violence this year, at least 40 people were killed in anti-government protests in January and a wave of arrests followed. The government said the arrests were an attempt to maintain order and were not politically motivated.
The council of ministers also proposed the designation by Kabila of special commissioners to provisionally govern 21 new provinces created in July, a move critics have said would be an unconstitutional power grab