Democratic Republic of the Congo

Président Kabila A Sélectionné Son Héritier

Président Kabila A Sélectionné Son Héritier

Après une longue période d’incertitude, Président Kabila a décidé de ne pas essayer de réviser la constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo (RDC), dont la limite est de deux mandats à la Présidence, en se mettant d’accord de quitter le pouvoir après les élections du 23 décembre 2018 et cela deux ans après. En même temps, Président Kabila a présenté son successeur préféré, et qui sera alors le candidat de la Majorité Présidentielle, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

La sélection de Kabila pour Shadary était en quelque sorte une surprise. Son nom n’était pas sur la liste de personne comme héritier possible. Cependant selon la perspective de Kabila, Shadary est le choix logique.

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J'ai récemment rendu publique une lettre que j'ai écrite à la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI) pour demander la libération de Jean-Pierre Bemba. Je pense que le temps qu'il a passé en prison constitue jusqu'à présent une peine suffisante pour le crime pour lequel il a été condamné.

Certains observateurs congolais ont interprété ma déclaration comme un signal que le gouvernement américain ne considère pas les candidats de l'opposition Felix Tshisekedi et Moïse Katumbi comme suffisamment qualifiés pour être candidats à la présidence, et que je demande la libération de M. Bemba comme étant le plus qualifié.

Il n'y a pas de vérité dans cette interprétation. Ni le gouvernement américain, ni moi, n'avons aucune préférence quant aux candidats aux élections en RDC. Nous travaillons tous pour encourager une élection libre et juste. Au sein du Département d'Etat américain, Felix Tshisekedi et Moïse Katumbi sont considérés comme de bons candidats avec de bonnes opportunités d'être élus. Il y a d'autres candidats forts dans différents partis.

Notre objectif principal est que les élections libres et équitables soient organisées conformément à l’ACCORD DE LA SYLVESTRE. Ni plus, ni moins.

Clarifying Letter to the ICC

I have recently made public a letter that I wrote to the International Criminal Court pleading for the release of Jean-Pierre Bemba. I feel that the time he has spent in prison so far constitutes sufficient punishment for the crime for which he was convicted.

Some Congolese observers have interpreted my statement as a signal that the American Government does not consider opposition candidates Felix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi as being sufficiently qualified to be presidential candidates, and that I am seeking Mr. Bemba's liberation as suggesting that he would be more qualified.

There is no truth to this interpretation. Neither the US Government, nor I, have preferred candidates in the DRC election. We both are working to encourage a free and fair election. In the US State Department, Felix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi are considered strong candidates with good opportunities to be elected. There are other strong candidates in different parties.

Our main objective is that free and fair elections be held in accordance with the Saint-Sylvestre Agreement. Nothing more, nothing less.

Une semaine difficile du président Kabila à Washington

La crise politique en cours en République démocratique du Congo a été une des principaux sujets du jour dans les cercles des affaires étrangères de Washington pendant la semaine du 21 au 25 mai 2018. Les représentants de la société civile congolaise et de l'administration Kabila avaient assisté à un déjeuner d’un forum du Congrès américain et avait été accueilli différemment.

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Corruption: Africa's Challenge

Corruption: Africa's Challenge

Corruption is the theme of this month's African Union meeting in Addis Ababa. It is refreshing that African leaders will discuss the subject in public. Some leaders are more committed than others to ending the cycle of graft which has dogged Africa since the colonial era.

Africa is not alone in this problem. Theft through corruption occurs in practically every nation – the early days of American industrialization were rife with graft. But in Africa, it has persisted as a potent force to stymie economic development and prosperity. 

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Rough Seas Ahead for President Kabila


In my time in the Foreign Service, I worked in nations across Africa whose people welcomed the departure of colonial overseers with hopes for democracy and better governance, only to see those hopes dashed by leaders who became so enamored with power that they never wanted to leave.

On the 17th anniversary of Joseph Kabila’s rise to power, it is clear that he has overstayed his welcome.

It is likely to be a difficult year for President Kabila. There is a growing international consensus that the DRC’s instability owes to the Kabila regime’s deliberate violations of the constitution to delay legally mandated elections. This is likely to result in increased pressure from the U.S. and international community in the coming months for elections to be held no later than December of 2018, and potentially, a rise in state-sponsored violence.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the violence against protestors perpetrated by the DRC security forces, opening the door to further sanctions by interested foreign governments. Members of the U.S. Congress are preparing legislation which would expand the US sanctions already in place against key individuals in the Kabila regime. These new sanctions are likely to come close to President Kabila and his immediate family.

President Kabila failed to hold elections in 2017, as was agreed in the December 2016 compromise negotiated by the Catholic Church. But he is also in blatant violation of several other important aspects of the agreement. First, the opposition was not given an opportunity to name a new Prime Minister from its own ranks. Instead, the President selected an individual supposedly associated with the opposition to be Prime Minister. Second, the President has refused to make a public commitment that he would not be a candidate in the election. 

Despite the foot-dragging, the one positive development was the start of voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in mid-2017. In October 2017, the CENI announced that the election could not be held prior to the first half of 2019; because of international pressure, especially from United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, it rescheduled the election for December 23, 2018.

The DRC political opposition no longer accepts President Kabila’s legitimacy after his failure to hold elections last year. Their political battle cry is “Transition Without Kabila.” They are demanding that a transitional government be put in place for the purpose of preparing for the election. It is quite clear that this will not happen.

The DRC’s Roman Catholic Archbishops, who negotiated the December 2016 agreement for elections in 2017, understandably feel betrayed. They called for mass peaceful demonstrations on December 31, 2017. The Kabila regime has tried to prevent these demonstrations with a brutal show of force. Security forces entered churches during mass, firing tear gas and live ammunition while the faithful were in prayer. This shocked the entire world, but did not weaken the Congolese people’s resolve.

Felix Tshisekedi, head of the “Rassemblement” coalition and the DRC’s main opposition leader still residing in the country, has issued a formal announcement that the opposition does not recognize President Kabila’s authority, and has called upon the international community to join in this declaration. It remains to be seen whether foreign governments will continue to recognize President Kabila as the DRC’s legitimate leader after his numerous violations of the country’s democratic process.

After Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, President Kabila hoped that US policy would change towards the DRC. It has not. The Trump administration has generally continued President Obama’s Africa policy, promoting democracy, an end to violence, and good governance, along with economic development through private sector investment. Kabila’s repeated defiance of his country’s constitution and violations of the agreements he has made to hold legitimate elections continue to be a top international issue for the U.S. under the new administration. 

Kabila had a chance to be a new kind of African leader who relinquishes power in a peaceful democratic transition. But he is simply acting as earlier strongmen did. He should not expect an ease in U.S. or international pressure anytime soon. 

(Photo: UN Photo / Cia Pak)

A Well Thought-Out Analysis From a Reader

Commenter Michael had the following to say about my October 30 blog post on the DRC:

"Greatly disagree with this blog entry from Mr. Cohen. The Congolese have come to understand that the international community (IC) is not on their side. The IC is well aware of the atrocities done in Eastern Congo and backed by both staunch western allies like Rwanda and Uganda and greatly detailed through UN reports. There have not been any sanctions or actions against these states. The IC including the US have been very soft against negative forces affecting the Congolese people.

Even with the sanctions directed toward members of the Kabila's entourage, we see that the Minister of Communications Lambert Mende who s under EU sanctions being granted a visa to visit Belgium for "humanitarian" reasons and yet there are Congolese opposition leaders who are rotting in prison without medical care and yet the IC is willing to give "lee-way" to perpetrators and bad actors in the Congo who are under sanctions.

So with all due respect Mr. Cohen, I think people especially in Congo have a right to be suspicious or at least cynical of the propositions of Ambassador Haley. The opposition in 2016 was under pressure of the IC to cede to a dialogue with Kabila when the population were ready for a revolution. The result is non-respect of the agreement, political prisoners still exile or in prison and non-nomination of a true Prime Minister from the opposition and cabinet positions still under the control of the Presidential Majority.

With all due respect Mr. Cohen, Congolese intellectuals should not relax because that's what they did in 2016 and expecting elections in 2017. Look what it produced."

The Trump Administration’s DRC Policy Is Now Formulated

The formulation of the Trump Administration’s policy toward the DRC is now complete. Although the administration has not yet nominated an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the Africa Bureau is currently in the very experienced and capable hands of Ambassador Don Yamamoto, and his Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan.


From a variety of sources, I have determined that the Trump Administration believes an honorable departure from power on the part of President Joseph Kabila, pursuant to the constitutional limitation of two elected terms, would be in the best interests of the Congolese people, and the Great Lakes sub-region. The Administration, therefore, would like to see the next set of elections held at the earliest possible date.

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Congolese Intellectuals’ Misguided Reaction to Ambassador Haley’s Visit to the DRC

Immediately after US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s departure from the DRC, the Congolese and international press were reporting great disappointment among that country’s intellectuals and a number of political personalities. They accused Ambassador Haley of assisting President Kabila’s determination to extend his stay in power, as long as possible, well beyond the expiration of his constitutional mandate on December 31, 2016.

This criticism is utterly misguided, and demonstrates a lack of understanding on the part of Congolese critics as to how American diplomacy and international relations are conducted. 

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Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Visit to Africa

US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is currently visiting Africa on behalf of President Donald Trump. During his official luncheon for African heads of State at the United Nations General Assembly in September, the President said he was concerned with two countries in crisis: South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He asked Ambassador Haley to visit these countries and make recommendations.

What is Ambassador Haley likely to find during her visit, and what is she likely to recommend?

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Update on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The political drama that began in the DRC over a year ago over the presidential succession continues to fester, and continues to increase tensions. Six months of negotiations have failed to bring about a solution, but the main opposition political leaders have expressed a willingness to make one last effort at compromise before resorting to outright political warfare. The big question is: Will President Kabila recognize the writing on the wall and agree to leave power peacefully?

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République Démocratique du Congo descend dans un état d'anarchie politique dangereuse. Les Nations Unies doivent agir

En République Démocratique du Congo (RDC), l'administration du président Kabila avait amorce la descente de la nation vers l'anarchie politique en novembre 2016 en refusant délibérément de tenir l'élection présidentielle exigée par la constitution au cours de ce mois. En l'absence d'une élection présidentielle, le président Kabila a perdu sa légitimité en tant que chef de l'État le 20 décembre 2016, date à laquelle son deuxième mandat de cinq ans est arrivé à son terme.

Pour tenter de combler le vide politique, le Président Kabila a demandé à la Conférence des évêques catholiques (CENCO) de faire la médiation entre sa majorité parlementaire et les forces politiques de l'opposition afin de parvenir à un accord sur la façon d’avancer vers les élections et de transférer le Pouvoir à un nouveau président. La médiation de la CENCO a commencé en octobre 2016 et s'est poursuivie jusqu'au 27 mars 2017, date à laquelle elle a pris fin parce que les parties ne parvenaient pas à s'entendre sur la voie à suivre.

L'échec de la médiation CENCO laisse la RDC dans un état d'anarchie politique. Aucune des institutions politiques n'a de légitimité, y compris la Présidence, le Sénat et l'Assemblée nationale. La perspective que le président Kabila reste au pouvoir indéfiniment et illégalement a causé des tensions importantes dans tout le pays. Les manifestations majeures demandées par les leaders de l'opposition pour le 10 avril 2017 pourraient devenir dangereusement violentes dans le modèle d’Ouagadougou en 2014.

Déjà, il y a une instabilité croissante dans différentes régions de ce vaste pays. Une unité militaire dans la région du Kasaï au centre de la RDC a été filmée en train de tuer sans raison des civils non combattants. Dans la même région, les milices ont répliqué et tué une quarantaine de policiers. Dans les régions de l'Extrême-Orient, les deux provinces du Kivu et de l'Ituri, diverses milices errent dans les villages en pillant et en violant, tandis que d'autres se disputent les gisements artisanaux miniers.

Pendant les matchs de football, les jeunes dans les tribunes et pourtour, passent plus de temps à appeler "Kabila à quitter" plutôt que d’appuyer leurs équipes.

Le Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies a adopté plusieurs résolutions sur la RDC depuis le début de la crise politique à la fin de 2016. Maintenant que l'anarchie politique s'est installée, que devrait faire l'ONU? Une force de maintien de la paix de l'ONU, la MONUSCO, opère en RDC depuis 2005, avec le mandat de protéger les civils.

Peut-être est-il maintenant temps pour une réflexion créative sur la RDC par le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU. La décision de ne prendre aucune mesure à ce stade ne contribuerait qu'à la «légitimation» de l'anarchie et à la rupture potentielle de l'ordre.

Il y a un précédent pour la prise de contrôle temporaire par les Nations Unies de la souveraineté. La Namibie, le Cambodge et le Timor oriental sont des exemples appropriés. A titre de rappel, il y a un précédent historique vers les années 1960s aussitôt l’accession du Congo à l’Independence. Par suite de nombreuses d’anarchie et mouvements de sécession, le Président Eisenhower était confronté au même dilemme : Laisse le Congo sombrer dans le chaos ou intervenir ?

Il n’était pas question d’envoyer les forces de l’OTAN pour ne pas ralentir les mouvements de la décolonisation. C’est ainsi que la décision fut prise de mettre la RD Congo sous tutelle des Nations Unies.

Aux mêmes maux, mêmes remèdes dit-on.  Bien que la situation courante n’est pas similaire à celle des années 1960, Il est maintenant pertinent pour l'ONU d'examiner la RDC dans un contexte similaire.

De ce fait, l’ONU prendrait le control de la RD Congo pendant quelques mois pour départager tous les politiciens, le temps d’organiser les élections et remettre le pouvoir au président élu.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo Has Descended to a State of Dangerous Political Anarchy. The United Nations Needs to Act

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the administration of President Kabila began the nation’s descent toward political anarchy in November 2016 by deliberately refusing to hold the presidential election required by the constitution for that month. In the absence of a presidential election, President Kabila lost his legitimacy as the head of state on December 20, 2016, when his second elected five-year term came to an end.

In an attempt to fill the political vacuum, President Kabila asked the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CENCO) to mediate between his parliamentary majority, and the opposition political forces, in order to reach agreement on how to move forward to an election and a transfer of power to a new president. The CENCO mediation began in October 2016, and continued until March 27, 2017 when it was terminated because the parties could not reach agreement on the way forward.

The failure of the CENCO mediation leaves the DRC in a state of political anarchy. None of the political institutions has legitimacy, including the Presidency, the Senate, and the National Assembly. The prospect of President Kabila remaining in power indefinitely and illegally has caused major tensions throughout the nation. Major demonstrations called for by opposition leaders for the week of April 3, 2017 could become dangerously violent in the model of Ouagadougou in 2014.

Already, there is growing instability in different regions of this vast country. A military unit in the Kasai region in central DRC has been photographed killing non-combatant civilians wantonly. In the same region, militias have retaliated and killed about forty policemen. In the far eastern regions of the two Kivu provinces and Ituri, various militias roam through villages pillaging and raping, while they and others fight over artisanal mineral deposits.

During football matches, the young people in the audience spend more time calling for “Kabila to go” than shouting in support of their teams.

The United Nations Security Council has enacted several resolutions about the DRC since the beginning of the political crisis in late 2016. Now that political anarchy has set in, what should the UN should be doing? A UN peace-keeping force, MONUSCO, has been operating in the DRC since 2005, with a mandate to protect civilians.

Perhaps now is the time for some creative thinking about the DRC by the UN Security Council. A decision to take no action at this point would only be contributing to the “legitimization” of anarchy, and to the potential breakdown of order.

There is precedent for the temporary UN takeover of sovereignty. Namibia, Cambodia and East Timor are suitable examples. It may now be relevant for the UN to look at the DRC in a similar context.

It is important to recall that the DRC had a very successful UN assistance experience from 1960 to 1967.  When the security situation deteriorated immediately after independence, President Eisenhower asked the UN Security Council to start a stabilization program with UN troops and civil servants. (There were no NATO forces allowed.) The UN operation assisted in the training of Congolese military units, helped reorganize administrative departments, and stabilized difficult regions such as Katanga and Kivu.  If this experience could be repeated immediately, then the Congo will be assured of free and fair elections in 2017, and a smooth transfer of power to a new governing team by the end of the year.  

The UN Security Council, and its most powerful member, the United States, need to think seriously about this option.

En République Démocratique Du Congo, l'Opposition Doit Se Concentrer sur la Transition Vers les Elections, et NON Sur les Conflits Personnels

La mort récente du leader vénéré de l'opposition politique congolaise, Etienne Tshisekedi, a nécessité une réorganisation de la direction du mouvement.

Les hauts responsables politiques du mouvement, connu sous le nom de «Rassemblement des Forces Politiques Acquises au Changement», se sont réunis le 2 mars 2017 pour choisir leurs nouveaux coordonnateurs principaux. Ils ont choisi Felix Tshisekedi comme Président du Mouvement et Pierre Lumbi comme Président du Conseil des Sages.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo Opposition Must Concentrate on the Transition to Elections, NOT on Personal Feuds

The recent death of the Congolese political opposition’s revered leader Etienne Tshisekedi has required a reorganization of the movement’s leadership.

The senior politicians in the movement, known as the “Reunion of Political Forces Committed to Change”, met on March 2, 2017 to select their new principal coordinators. They selected Felix Tshisekedi as President of the Movement, and Pierre Lumbi as President of the Council of Elders.

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