The government of the DR Congo told the country’s football association to halt league competition from Thursday until further notice. The government believes that the end of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate next week will bring violence.
Constitutional term limits require Kabila to step down by December 19th, but he has claimed he will stay on until April 2018 at the least by delaying the election. Kabila’s opponents continue to accuse him of deliberately delaying the vote as an attempt to remain in power. While he has denied all accusations, his opponents have pledged street protests will force him out of office. Last month, protests against delaying the vote resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people.
Barthelemy Okito, secretary-general of the sports ministry, believes the situation risks spilling into football stadiums. He recalled a previous situation in 1959 when riots against Belgian colonial rule occurred outside the capital’s main football stadium. Okito worries history will repeat itself this time around.
Moise Katumbi, an opposing politician and owner of the current champions in the league TP Mazembe, condemned the government’s decision to halt play.
He claimed that with the Africa Cup of Nations next month this puts local players at a disadvantage. They risk being unprepared for the important tournament next month. Katumbi believes that if the DR Congo wants to see success at the competition they need to make sure their local players have had some preparation.
“Football is the only thing that keeps people entertained and makes them forget about Kabila’s dictatorship and the poverty in Congo,” Katumbi told BBC Sport.