KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila will not stand in December's presidential election, a spokesman said on Wednesday, announcing that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would be the ruling coalition's candidate.
The announcement by spokesman Lambert Mende at a news conference puts an end to years of speculation about whether Kabila would defy term limits to run for a third term.
The selection of Ramazani, however, represents a defiant move by Kabila. A former interior minister, he is under European Union sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, including deadly crackdowns by security forces on protesters.
Even so, the announcement that Kabila will not run again will ease fears in the region and beyond that a Kabila candidacy would drag the country back into the civil wars of the turn of the century in which millions died, mostly from hunger and disease.
The Dec. 23 vote should now herald Congo's first democratic transition of power following decades marked by authoritarian rule, coups and deadly conflict.
Mende said that Ramazani was on his way to the electoral commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa to file his candidacy.
Several opposition candidates, including former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and the president of Congo's largest opposition party Felix Tshisekedi, have also registered to run.
(Reporting by Amedee Mwarabu; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Tim Cocks and Alison Williams)