On 31 July 2016, opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, 83, addressed tens of thousands of supporters near Martyrs Stadium in the capital Kinshasa, after nearly two years spent abroad on medical care.

In his 30-minute speech, Tshisekedi demanded that incumbent President Kabila, in power since 2001 and currently serving his second term of office, should “pack up” upon the end of his mandate on 19 December 2016. He further called on the Congolese population, in general, and the youth, in particular, to “take themselves in hand and express their sovereignty” if presidential polls are not called by the country’s National Electoral Commission (CENI) by 19 September 2016.

Regarding the political dialogue currently under preparation and being facilitated by the African Union-appointed former Togolese Primer Minister, Edem Kodjo, Tshisekedi conditioned its holding on a number conditions. He demanded that a new facilitator should be appointed in replacement of Kodjo, whom Tshisekedi called “a traitor and Kabila loyalist” and the unconditional release of all political detainees. He also required that the “government stops arbitrary legal proceedings against opposition leaders, in particular former Katanga governor Moïse Katumbi…”

Later reacting to Tshisekedi speech, Lambert Mende, Government Spokesperson commended the peaceful holding of the rally saying that “the gathering complied as much as possible with public order” and “formed part of normal democratic life in the country”. He nevertheless lambasted Tshisekedi’s demands on elections stressing “the onus is exclusively on the electoral commission to organise elections”. On the dialogue, Mende said it “is incomprehensible that Tshisekedi rejects the AU-appointed facilitator” seeing that the opposition leader was the “first to seek for an international facilitation to the dialogue”.

Unlike past opposition rallies which were frequently suppressed by the police, the gathering experience no violence from riot police deployed several blocks off the meeting venue.

In a bid to counter Tshisekedi’s rally, tens of thousands of Kabila supporters organised a rally on 29 July 2016, two days to Sunday’s opposition rally, stressing that it is constitutional that Kabila should remain in office until a new president is elected.

The opposition fears that Kabila is keen to extend his stay in power and that elections are being delayed by the government which cited logistical constraints to hold the polls in 2016.