President Kabila has been the subject of protest and criticism from the general population and from Church leaders. This year, 15 people were killed while attending peaceful, Church-organized rallies against the government.
Despite crackdowns on Church events by the current administration, the Congolese bishops have declined to endorse a specific candidate. Instead, they said they have expressed hope for "credible elections for a real democratic alternative," and for a leader that would "respect fundamental laws," be a man of his word," and not exploit Congo's natural resources.
Joseph Kabila came to power 17 years ago at the age of 29, following the assassination of the previous incumbent, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, his father. He was reelected in 2006 and 2011.
In 2012, the country's 35 bishops condemned the recent election results as subject to "serious errors," and having been rife with "treachery, lies, and terror." Cardinal Pasinya called for the results to be annulled and for Congolese to engage in acts of civil disobedience in protest.
Barred by the Congolese constitution from seeking election a third time, Kabila was set to leave office in December 2016, following the election of his successor. That election, originally scheduled for November 2016, has been successively postponed by government authorities, resulting in widespread civil unrest.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Since that time, Kabila has remained in power.
Approximately 40 percent of the population of the central African nation is Catholic. Since becoming an independent country in 1960, there has never been a peaceful transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo.