Kabila move in DRC triggers relief, but uncertainty remains

2018-08-10 15:23
Jospeh Kabila (File: AFP)

Jospeh Kabila (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

By announcing he is formally stepping aside after 17 years in power, President Joseph Kabila has eased tensions in DR Congo but the volatile country remains gripped by uncertainty ahead of elections due at the end of the year.

Domestic, regional and international pressures are likely to have played a role in the president's eagerly-awaited decision to pick a successor instead of running again.

But suspicions will run deep that Kabila, by picking a loyalist to contest the December 23 ballot, wants to wield influence behind the throne, analysts say.

"Kabila evacuated the question about his intentions from the agenda by choosing a successor," Hans Hoebeke, senior analyst for Congo at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told AFP.

"This should not reassure too much. There are no guarantees that the elections will effectively be held and, if they are, that they will respond to minimal criteria of credibility."

Big announcement

Kabila has ruled the country since 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent-Desire. His tenure has been stained by a reputation for corruption and conflict.

After his two-term limit expired at the end of 2016, Kabila stayed in power, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution to remain in office.

In recent months, he has kept everyone guessing whether he would try to run again. On Wednesday, just hours before the deadline for filing election bids was due to expire, his office made the big announcement.

Former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was designated as Kabila's ruling coalition candidate.

By choosing a close ally who is under European sanctions for human rights violations, Kabila signalled that loyalty prevailed above all other criteria.

Small base

Shadary will run against a long list of other candidates from opposing parties, and does not have widespread recognition in the country.

"His political base is in Maniema, a small artisanal mining province in the east, which includes less than five percent of the DRC's electorate," said Indigo Ellis with risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft.

If Shadary wins, Kabila will wield special clout in addition to his positions as senator and head of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), Ellis added.

Kabila would "almost certainly remain the string-puller behind the scenes, at least initially, with Shadary as a figurehead president", he said.

For this reason, and on the assumption that the opposition is able to unite behind a single candidate, a Shadary election victory is "bound to attract accusations of foul play," he said.

The fate of Moise Katumbi, 53, a prominent opposition figure leading recent opinion polls who was barred from entering the country last week to lodge his candidacy, remains a concerning issue for some analysts.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

"We believe that the real goal, for the moment, must be an election in which the rights of all and of every individuals are respected, in peace and equality of opportunity," a church-based group, CENCO, said in a statement this week.

"That is the price for credibility of the polls."

Other key questions include the government's ability to organise the elections in time in a country the size of western Europe where infrastructure is notoriously poor.

The electoral commission said in November they expected elections to cost about $420 million (362 million euros).

The opposition, as well international players including the United States, have also expressed concerns over the electronic voting machines that the electoral commission intends on using.

The machines, imported from South Korea, are difficult to use and liable to be hacked, they claim.

Regional pressure

The DRC was the theatre for two wars, from 1996-7 and 1998-2003, that sucked in states from around central and southern Africa. Embers of that conflict glow on a smaller scale in the east of the vast country even today.

The international community is clearly relieved by the easing of tensions, while also mindful of the difficult road ahead.

"We salute the decision by President Joseph Kabila Kabange to uphold his commitment to respect the Congolese constitution," the UN's special representative and the representatives of the African Union, European Union, Canada, Switzerland and the United States said in statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised Kabila's "action for the unity and integrity of the DRC".

In another sign of easing tensions, a group of Roman Catholic lay movements said it had put on hold rallies planned for August.

The Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) said it had decided to temporarily suspend three days of nationwide "major actions" on August 12, 13 and 14, aimed at forcing President Joseph Kabila to resign "in a demonstration of good faith and to encourage the head of state" to hold "credible, inclusive, calm and transparent elections".

The inflexion point for Kabila's decision may have come from African countries, which are deeply concerned by the instability, said a diplomatic source in Kinshasa, singling out Angola -- a traditional ally of Kabila -- as well as South Africa and the AU.

"He can't be completely immune to the reality that in many ways regional opinions have turned against him (from running)," said Stephanie Wolters, Johannesburg analyst at ISS Africa, adding that the threat of new US sanctions may also have weighed on Kabila's decision.

Read more on:    joseph kabila  |  drc  |  central africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
 

And the Paws24 and Hill's winners are ...

Find out who the winners of our Paws24 pet pics and Q&a competitions are...

 

Paws

Keep your family and pets safe from rabies
5 scientific benefits of owning a cat
Why we love cats
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.