The United States on Wednesday welcomed President Joseph Kabila's decision to step aside and not seek re-election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but said more must be done to ensure a democratic transfer of power.
Global pressure had been growing on Kabila and his government over the election delay, with the United States in June taking the unusual step of announcing visa bans on several Congolese senior officials but not naming names, citing their involvement in "significant corruption" related to the electoral process.
KINSHASA, Congo - Congo's president is not running again in December's long-delayed elections, easing concerns by the opposition and global community that he would try to stay in office and positioning one of Africa's most turbulent nations for what could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.
Kabila, 47, has been in power for 17 years, taking over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was killed by a bodyguard. Elections have been delayed since then, with Congo's government blaming the difficulties of organizing a vote in the vast country. The watchdog Transparency International ranked it 156 out of 176 countries in its 2016 corruption index.
DR Congo has been riven by conflicts as several militias fight for control of territory and mineral-rich areas.
The United States is ready to impose further sanctions to dissuade Kabila from continuing his hold on power, the Financial Times reported Monday.
"We are all going to align behind (him)", Mende said. "They're trying to squeeze his family and his finances".
Tshisekedi, president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), filed for his candidacy accompanied by thousands of his supporters from his residence in Kinshasa.
The announcement by spokesman Lambert Mende at a news conference puts an end to years of speculation about whether Joseph Kabila would defy term limits to run for a third term.
Ramazani, dressed in a light suit and flanked by supporters from the coalition, briefly addressed reporters after filing his candidacy later in the afternoon at the headquarters of the national electoral commission in the capital Kinshasa.
He told AFP he was running "in the name of my party", called the Action Party.
Katumbi, 53, a wealthy businessman and former governor of the province of Katanga, was unable to cross the border from Zambia where he and his team remains as of Wednesday.
Katumbi has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since May 2016 after falling out with Kabila.
He chose former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the ruling party's permanent secretary, as the candidate for the newly formed Common Front for Congo coalition.
The announcement came just hours before the deadline for lodging applications for the December 23 election.