The Democratic Republic of the Congo increasingly appears to be headed toward a major political crisis in the coming months. It could lead to violence, major instability, and another round of mass suffering for the Congolese people.
This crisis has been created and fueled by President Kabila’s refusal to hold a presidential election in November 2016 as required by the nation’s constitution. Kabila has also refused to accept a mediated political compromise organized by the nation’s Catholic bishops.
Kabila appears to be headed toward another rigged election in which either he, or a member of his family, will be “elected” president. To guarantee that he can get away with it, Kabila is spending huge amounts of money to corrupt opposition politicians. As a result, the Central Bank’s reserves are dangerously low, with only two weeks of foreign exchange currently available for needed imports as of the beginning of May 2017.
In order to prevent a total confrontation between himself and the political opposition, Kabila had asked the Conference of Congolese Catholic Bishops (CENCO) to undertake a mediation effort beginning in October 2016. This mediation resulted in a compromise “agreement” that was signed by both Kabila’s representatives and members of the political opposition on December 31, 2016. This agreement appeared to satisfy all parties, and was supposed to establish a foundation for a democratic transition to a free and fair election.
Unfortunately, Kabila started to undermine the agreement only days after it was signed. He refused to allow the opposition to choose the transitional prime minister, and he refused to allow a reorganization of the “independent electoral commission,” as stipulated in the agreement. One of the other stipulations in the agreement was a review of political “criminal” cases and the release of political prisoners. In this respect, the leading opposition politician, Moise Katumbi, was totally exonerated by the Bishops Conference of the many false accusations raised by law enforcement. Nevertheless, it is clear that Kabila will now do everything possible to prevent Mr. Katumbi from returning from exile. Katumbi’s ability to rally the population is formidable.
In essence, President Kabila is engaged in every possible dirty maneuver to maintain himself in power against all constitutional rules. Moise Katumbi, and his large block of followers throughout the Congo, will now move to declare Kabila to be illegitimate, and demand that he step down.
The stage is now set for a dangerous period of instability in Africa’s largest country.