Déjà vu as DRC President Kabila Clings to PowerOctober 27, 2016 in Democratic Republic of the Congo
During a speech in April 1990, then Zaire President Mobuto Sese Seko promised his people an end to one-party rule and a future without the many they knew as the Guide. However in the seven years that would follow, President Seko acted on few of his promises, and Zaire eventually sank into chaos, leading to his overthrow in 1997. In the years since, a number of conflicts have resulted in the death of millions of people, and in 2016, a quarter of a century after President Seko’s speech, déjà vu appears to have crept in as the future of democracy is questioned in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On 15 October, the DRC’s ruling coalition and other smaller parties agreed to delay next months’ election to April 2018, in a move that is likely to anger opposition groups who have accused President Joseph Kabila of trying to cling onto power. According to one organization involved in the discussions, the Union for the Congolese Nation, the parties had agreed in talks on Saturday to give more time for voter registration and to keep President Kabila in office until the delayed vote. A statement has indicated that delegates at the talks would likely ratify the decision on 17 October. UNC president Vital Kamerhe is widely expected to become prime minister as part of the power-sharing government ushered in under the talks. While the DRC’s main opposition bloc has yet to comment on the move, it has already called for a general strike to take place on 19 October in order to press President Kabila to leave at the end of his mandate in December.
Last month, protests against President Kabila, 45, led to clashes with security forces ,with the United Nations reporting that at least fifty people were killed in the capital Kinshasa.
President Kabila has stated that he will respect the constitution, however he has yet to rule out attempting to change the country’s laws in order to enable him to run for a new term in office. Last year, the presidents of neighbouring Rwanda and the Republic of Congo changed their constitutions, effectively allowing themselves to stand for a third term. Opponents of President Kabila now say that they fear that he will do the same.