KINSHASA, DR CONGO – An announcement that parliament in DR Congo will meet to consider legislation providing legal protection from prosecution against former presidents has increased speculations that President Joseph Kabila may be considering stepping down.

Reuters news agency cites Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala as declaring that Kabila will not be a candidate when DR Congo votes for president in December 2018.

Kabila, whom many have accused of seeking ways to run again by circumventing term limits, has not publicly committed not to run or to step down.

However, it is Kabila who requested that parliament convene in a special session to consider and vote on the bill.

“At the request of the president of the republic, an extraordinary session will be convened,” the speaker of DR Congo’s lower house, Aubin Minaku, told reporters Friday in Kinshasa.

It is unclear when the session will hold.

Under the constitution, former presidents enjoy broad immunity from prosecution as senators for life, but in 2015 an opposition senator, Modeste Mutinga, introduced legislation to reinforce those protections in what is seen as offering a safe retirement for Kabila, should be choose to step down.

Under the draft, former presidents and their aides, including bodyguards, would get a higher pension and would enjoy immunity from arrest for common law violations committed in the exercise of presidential functions.

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