'Uncertainty looms' over DR Congo

President Joseph Kabila of DR Congo. Opponents are doubting his fidelity to the Constitution. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

A heavy cloud of uncertainty looms over the political future of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country prepares for a presidential election later this year, an expert says.

Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, a Senior Associate and Regional Director for Africa at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) told the Africa Review in Yaoundé that “the next four or five months could be pretty difficult for the DRC if the political leaders do not come up with a consensus on how to manage the fact that elections may not be held on the day stipulated in the constitution”.

“I think that if there is no concerted effort to arrive at a consensus that everyone buys into, if the benchmark set by the constitution is allowed to expire without some political agreement on the next steps, then the country could easily experience violence,” the expert on democracy in Africa said.

Two-term limit

Tensions have been rising in mineral-rich but unstable central African nation over fears that President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, may try to stay beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which ends on December 19.

Opposition leaders have been calling on the incumbent to respect the constitution and call an election which he is not expected to contest.

Millions of eligible voters have not been listed as no registration has taken place in the country for over five years now.

“That’s the segment of society that could make trouble if they don’t feel included in the process,” Dr Fumunyoh said.

Brutal crackdown

The Congolese government has imposed a brutal crackdown against those who have spoken out against or opposed attempts to extend President Kabila’s stay in power.

Some opposition leaders have formed coalitions aimed at unseating the 45-year-old leader.

With the return of the opposition supremo Etienne Tshisekedi from Europe and the mobilisation of his political allies, Dr Fumunyoh said they may think that they were in a position of strength, especially in the capital Kinshasa, which “has always been an opposition stronghold”.

Former governor

“At the same time, Katanga is now split because the former governor, (Moise) Katumbi who was quite popular, has now declared his intentions to run, so he is going to split up part of Kabila’s traditional base of support. On the other hand, Kabila feels that he has the army and the security services…,each side feels they are in a position of strength and that can only be a catalyst for them overplaying their hand,” the NDI regional director said.

Dr Fomunyoh, sometimes described as 'Mr Africa' on democracy and free and fair elections, has organised and advised international election observation missions to Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia,

Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

He has also designed and supervised country-specific democracy support programmes with civic organisations, political parties and legislative bodies in Benin, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, The Gambia, Senegal and Togo.

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