07 July 2016: DR Congo President Joseph Kabila is yet to declare whether he will stand in this year’s election. The uncertainty is scaring people, says Maguy Libebele.

kabila Citizens of DR Congo have seen serious armed conflict in the east of their country for two decades. Image credit: Peace Direct.

“Kabila should be clear to calm the tension”
Will he stay or will he go? Six months before the end of his second constitutional mandate, the President of DRC, Joseph Kabila, is giving few signals on crucial questions which have gripped the country for months.

Without any presidential declarations, his lieutenants and members of the presidential majority speak on one hand about “a peaceful change of power at the end of the mandate,” while others talk of “the inevitable delay of the elections.” Still others mention an “ardent desire to see President Joseph Kabila pursue, [for] as long as possible, his mission at the head of the country.”

For Kamande Muleba, a civil society actor from Kisangani in Eastern DRC, “The President is not obliged to make a statement on the end of his mandate. The constitution is clear on the point.”

But this view is rejected by Hubert Sindani, a human rights defender also from Kisangani: “If President Kabila is campaigning for the peace and development of his people and his country – as he always says – he should be clear in order to calm the increasing tension.”

During a live press conference on national television in March, government spokesperson and Minister for Communication and Media, Lambert Mende, said that “The elections will take place in accordance with the Constitution.” A declaration which caused surprise among the Congolese community. The elections, Mende added, should not “depend on dialogue” taking place.

Silence isn’t golden

“Arbitrary arrest, intimidation, suspensions, restrictions on freedom of expression – this is daily life”
Olivier Kamitatu, in charge of external relations for the G7, a platform of seven Congolese political parties, previously said that “Tensions in DRC are linked to the silence of Joseph Kabila on his future. He needs to break the silence because we feel that all the institutions, which should be clearly independent and impartial, are subservient to Kabila’s regime.”

“The courts, the National Independent Electoral Commission and the National Assembly are being manipulated because a single man wants to stay in power. It is against the will of the majority of Congolese, who want to see the Constitution implemented in order to guarantee the end of the second term and democratic change.”

On Radio Okapi, the civil society group “Force Vive,” from Kinshasa, asked the Congolese government and Parliament to force the Constitutional Court to make a judgement on whether or not it would be possible to organise the presidential election within the constitutional timeframe.

Dialogue planned

Civil society is more broadly lobbying Kabila’s government to try and ensure the election is held within the constitutional deadline. With Kabila organising a dialogue on the subject, the organisations are aiming to prevent a scenario whereby those currently in power stay in power indefinitely. One activist said: “If the dialogue fails, the international community should take responsibility and stop Kabila from standing as a candidate.

Another stressed that civil society should remain neutral, and “Call upon the people not to take the side of either government or opposition. Civil society groups must be vigilant and scrutinise the entire electoral process.”

This is crucial. With the entire Congolese population expecting a change, a single spark or event – linked to the current situation or not – could lead to demonstrations.

In the meantime, journalists, the political opposition and human rights defenders are worried because of the relentless grip on their professions. “Arbitrary arrest, intimidation, suspensions, restrictions on freedom of expression – this is daily life,” said a journalist in Kinshasa.

This article was first published in Peace Direct's report on third-term presidents in Africa. To view the whole report, visit Will they, won’t they? Africa’s third-term presidents 

Comments

mwenda Kenneth on July 7, 2016, 10:10 a.m.

Joseph Kabila should not contest or change the constitution to suit himself..as a leader of DRC,should leave a legacy of proper,harmonious handover of power.he should get examples from Zambia and the world will consider him as a pillar of peace and good governance.however he maybe afraid of the crimes he may have committed while trying to.defend his people hence the world should guarantee him of his safety and security and freedoms.

Lekaken on July 7, 2016, 2:06 p.m.

Most of the African leaders due to their urge for power, easily manipulates “The courts, the National Independent Electoral Commission and the National Assembly, and this is because they use their power position in the office to implement/amend laws that favor them, the said chief master minds use their immediate majority men in the assembly to ensure that they get back in to office. It is high time for the civil society, human rights activists, and the citizens to be firm and ensure that the constitution is implemented in accordance with the majority so that democracy is realized.

Theresa Okpokwu on July 7, 2016, 2:23 p.m.

The problem with Africa democracy is that it is not true democracy. In true democracy, the constitution is clearly stipulated, maintained and obeyed. If the constitution states that a president cannot run for an office more than twice; then an incumbent that has been elected twice should not nurse the ambition for a third time. The election committee, judicial system and all decision makers should stand for the implementation as declared in the constitution . It is their civic duty to defend it. This is true democracy. Compliance to the provision of the constitution is not negotiable. Kapila should step down. The decision makers should stand for the rights of the citizens to elect who they want to govern them. It is the citizens fundamental human right. They shouldn't be denied that.

Oscar Nduwarugira on July 7, 2016, 7:44 p.m.

Indeed civil society should never get involved in politics.The churchers and human rights groups should also do the same.This is the mistake that happened in Burundi.Politics should be left to politicians form both the government and the opposition.The life of congolese is more important than political change!War should never be a solution no matter what!Congolese life matters and for this to happen there is a need to have a strong neutral group standing between the government and the opposition.

Civil Society on Oct. 19, 2019, 9:31 a.m.

Without any presidential declarations, his lieutenants and members of the presidential majority speak on one hand about “a peaceful change of power at the end of the mandate,” while others talk of “the inevitable delay of the elections.” Still, others mention an “ardent desire to see President Joseph Kabila pursue, [for] as long as possible, his mission at the head of the country.”

More from the blog

In this blog post, Juanita Esguerra-Rezk argues that a "territorial peace" approach is needed to curb coca production in Colombia, opposing the militarized approaches proposed by the current government. It exposes evidence related to the health, environmental and social costs of aerial spraying of Glyphosate herbicide, and asserts that sustainable peace must be built through the recognition and empowerment of local communities. Read more »

09 May 2019

‘Opportunities for Peace in Kismayo, Somalia, is the latest in our series of ‘Local Voices for Peace’ reports, the aim of which is to raise the profile of civil society perspectives on peace and conflict. Read more »

20 May 2019

Peacebuilding in Colombia has a long history, and not all efforts in this field are linked to the current peace implementation process. One of our local peacebuilding experts shares six ways that civil society is enhancing peacebuilding. She hopes that this will help other grassroots actors learn about the attitudes and tools required to lead the country to sustainable peace, thinking of a long-term process and sustainable results that start from the local level. Read more »

30 July 2019

More from the blog