International groups have commended President Joseph Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for accepting not to stand for re-election in December, after 17 years in power.
The US, European Union (EU), African Union (AU) and the UN mission to Congo say Kabila’s decision has calmed fears of the country sliding into chaos.
“We applaud the decision by President Joseph Kabila to respect the Congolese constitution,” according to a joint statement, also signed by Canada and Switzerland.
It added that this “constitutes a key stage on the path towards the first peaceful change of power in DRC.”
They called for “transparent, peaceful and inclusive” elections.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised Kabila’s “action for the unity and integrity of the DRC”.
After years of speculation over his intentions, Kabila on Wednesday consented to obey the two-term limit imposed by the country’s constitution, by not entering his name into a poll set for December 23.
Kabila’s ruling coalition nominated former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who has been placed under EU sanctions, as its presidential candidate.
Shadary, a close ally of Kabila, used to serve as deputy prime minister.
Several opposition candidates have registered for the poll, including Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice president who had convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity overturned in June.
A group of Roman Catholic lay movements said it had put on hold rallies planned for August, in another sign of easing tensions.
Kabila’s second term officially ended in 2016. His rivals accused him of wanting to stay in power.
The country’s election was repeatedly delayed, leading to violence and protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.
Kabila has been in power since his father and predecessor, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001.