DRC

DEMO­CRATIC REPUB­LIC OF CONGO

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - By Pa­trick Smith

Af­ter Ka­bila The coun­try’s long-awaited elec­tions have been set for De­cem­ber and na­tional and in­ter­na­tional forces are des­per­ate for a fresh start

An end is in sight to the grind­ing con­flict over Pres­i­dent Ka­bila’s over­stay­ing in power. Elec­tions are planned for De­cem­ber and na­tional and in­ter­na­tional forces are putting pres­sure on Ka­bila to help the coun­try start a new page

On 23 De­cem­ber, Joseph Ka­bila is due to make his­tory when he pre­sides over na­tional elec­tions that are meant to sig­nal his re­tire­ment from the pres­i­dency. It would be the first time that a Con­golese pres­i­dent has left of­fice with­out be­ing forced to by a coup d’état, a re­bel­lion or an as­sas­sin’s bul­let. The po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion in the DRC will hand a new leader the power to af­fect the lives of more than 80 mil­lion fel­low cit­i­zens, long-run­ning con­flicts that have desta­bilised the re­gion and killed and dis­placed mil­lions of peo­ple, and tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in strate­gic min­ing and en­ergy deals. Be­cause of the vast wealth he and his fam­ily have ac­cu­mu­lated and wor­ries that he could face pros­e­cu­tion for hu­man rights abuses, Ka­bila has held on to power be­yond the end of his sec­ond term in 2016. But his speech to the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly on 25 Septem­ber sounded like an oath for de­par­ture: “I reaf­firm the ir­re­versible char­ac­ter of hold­ing the elec­tions planned for the end of this year.” The fol­low-up com­mit­ment was more prob­lem­atic: “Ev­ery­thing will be im­ple­mented in or­der to guar­an­tee the peace­ful and cred­i­ble char­ac­ter of these polls.” Even those ac­tivists and politi­cians who were con­vinced that ‘Plan A’ was for Ka­bila to stay in the pres­i­dency in­def­i­nitely now sug­gest that re­gional pres­sure has forced him and his al­lies to im­ple­ment ‘Plan B’: the choos­ing of a dauphin, who would be un­der strict con­trol.

Such is the scep­ti­cism about the po­lit­i­cal class, many Con­golese still doubt the elec­tions will take place on sched­ule, let alone be cred­i­ble. Those doubts are rooted in bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence. First there was the fail­ure of the Com­mis­sion Elec­torale Na­tionale Indépen­dante (CENI) to or­gan­ise voter reg­is­tra­tion and elec­tions on time in 2016 when Ka­bila was due to stand down. Then some op­po­si­tion par­ties struck a deal with the Ma­jorité Prési­den­tielle, giv­ing Ka­bila an­other year. But the op­po­si­tion lacked the mus­cle, alone, to keep Ka­bila to the deal. Re­gional pres­sure, from An­gola, South Africa and, even­tu­ally, Zim­babwe, made a dif­fer­ence. That trio dom­i­nate the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC), of which the DRC is a mem­ber. They ar­gued that fur­ther at­tempts by Ka­bila to pro­long his pres­i­dency would trig­ger more in­sta­bil­ity, with mili­tias fight­ing in the east and other parts of the coun­try. Adding pres­sure on Kin­shasa was some in­di­rect nudg­ing from the Euro­pean Union and the United States, al­though Ka­bila had de­clined to meet with Nikki Ha­ley, then Wash­ing­ton’s en­voy to the UN. Op­po­si­tion politi­cians ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment of stir­ring up hos­til­i­ties, even dis­tribut­ing weapons to mili­tias, to de­lay the elec­tions and Ka­bila’s exit. “Who fi­nanced these mili­tia groups?” asked lead­ing op­po­si­tion­ist Moïse Ka­tumbi, who has been barred from con­test­ing or even en­ter­ing the DRC. “It’s Ka­bila […] be­cause he doesn’t want elec­tions,” Ka­tumbi tells The Africa Re­port. “Even if Ka­bila does go now, he’s go­ing to leave to­tal chaos,” he adds.

DE­VOTED DAUPHIN

Ka­bila’s lengthy con­sul­ta­tions within his Parti du Pe­u­ple pour la Re­con­struc­tion et la Démocratie (PPRD) re­sulted in the choice of the lit­tle-known for­mer in­te­rior min­is­ter, Em­manuel Ra­mazani Shadary, as the party’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. A man of the se­cu­rity sys­tem who is un­der EU sanc­tions for hu­man rights abuses, Shadary lacks his own base. That much was clear in his ac­cep­tance speech on 9 Au­gust : “It is the chance, be­fore the Con­golese peo­ple, to thank almighty God for the grace he has shown us and to thank sin­cerely and above all the moral author­ity of his ex­cel­lency Joseph Ka­bila Ka­bange, an ex­cep­tional man.” Then with a nod to out­siders, such as the UN, the African Union and the SADC, Shadary added: “He is keep­ing his word. He said there will be no prob­lem and there will be no third term.” None of this sug­gests that, if elected, Shadary will de­vi­ate much from the Ka­bila play­book. Other con­tenders, such as for­mer prime min­is­ter Au­gustin Matata Ponyo, for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Azarias Ru­berwa or the cur­rent chair­man of state min­ing com­pany Gé­camines, Al­bert Yuma Mulimbi, may have been more likely to plough their own fur­rows. Un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent has wide-rang­ing pow­ers of pa­tron­age in ap­point­ments and award­ing of con­tracts. Shadary’s can­di­dacy is a mes­sage of con­ti­nu­ity. Few ex­pect him, if elected, to fol­low the ex­am­ple of João Lau­renço in An­gola and turn on the fam­ily of the out­go­ing pres­i­dent. Ka­bila will re­main pres­i­dent of the PPRD, and could also vie for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2023 with­out break­ing the clause that bars

can­di­dates from seek­ing more than two con­sec­u­tive terms as pres­i­dent. For Florib­ert Anzu­luni of the Fil­imbi cit­i­zens’ move­ment, a Ka­bila-shadary tran­si­tion will not defuse ten­sion: “The real prob­lem is that Ka­bila doesn’t want to step down. He wanted to stay in power with­out or­gan­is­ing elec­tions.” Ka­bila’s des­ig­nated suc­ces­sor would be iso­lated and a poor in­ter­locu­tor says Anzu­luni: “He has ap­pointed a pup­pet to suc­ceed him – a guy sanc­tioned by the EU, a guy with­out con­tacts with the part­ners out­side the DRC.” Some may qui­etly re­joice that Ka­bila has picked a can­di­date with lit­tle name recog­ni­tion. In tele­phone polls con­ducted by the Congo Re­search Group at New York Univer­sity in Septem­ber, Con­golese sup­port for Shadary was run­ning at 16%. For Félix Tshisekedi, leader of the op­po­si­tion Union pour la Démocratie et le Pro­grès So­cial (UDPS), it was run­ning at 36%. Ear­lier polls by the group had Tshisekedi and other op­po­si­tion fig­ures such as Ka­tumbi or the Mou­ve­ment de Libéra­tion du Congo ( MLC) leader, JeanPierre Bemba, far ahead of Ka­bila or a can­di­date cho­sen by him. Not an en­er­getic cam­paigner nor a com­pelling or­a­tor, Tshisekedi’s at­trac­tion to vot­ers is be­cause he is not from the Ka­bila camp, and that he is the son of the leg­endary op­po­si­tion leader Éti­enne Tshisekedi. Félix’s ad­van­tage is that two of the other pop­u­lar op­po­si­tion can­di­dates – Bemba and Ka­tumbi – have been barred from con­test­ing the elec­tion. The other lead­ing op­po­si­tion­ist, Vi­tal Kamerhe, is sus­pected of flirt­ing with Ka­bila’s side, hav­ing once been a min­is­ter in his gov­ern­ment. On pa­per, the op­po­si­tion can­di­dates have agreed that the best chance of beat­ing Ka­bila and his dauphin would be a na­tional al­liance back­ing one can­di­date. Civic groups s uch a s t he Conf é re nc e Na­tionale Epis­co­pale du Congo ( CENCO) en­cour­age that. But a meet­ing of all the op­po­si­tion par­ties due to be held in Jo­han­nes­burg on 23 Oc­to­ber was can­celled, as was an ear­lier ren­dezvous in Paris. Some in Tshisekedi’s camp may cal­cu­late that he may not need an al­liance to win, but that would as­sume op­ti­mum elec­toral con­di­tions and a neu­tral ref­eree en­forc­ing clear rules. Al­though CENCO plans to field tens of thou­sands of ob­servers for the elec­tions, the group sounds alarms on sev­eral tech­ni­cal is­sues. The big­gest is the use of hi-tech vot­ing ma­chines in­stead of pa­per bal­lots, and an au­dit show­ing that more than six mil­lion peo­ple could be dis­en­fran­chised be­cause their fin­ger­prints did not reg­is­ter on the bio­met­ric sys­tem while an­other six mil­lion on the elec­toral roll may be too young to vote. At least 18 out of the 21 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates re­ject the use of vot­ing ma­chines in the 90,000 polling sta­tions, ques­tion­ing CENI’S $150m pro­cure­ment deal with Ge­malto, the Am­s­ter­damhead­quar­tered sup­plier. Crit­ics also point to se­cu­rity weak­nesses with the ma­chines and sus­pi­cions that they could be used to rig the vote. Ka­tumbi warns that us­ing vot­ing ma­chines in the face of mass op­po­si­tion could trig­ger a boy­cott or worse: “A civil war could start […] peo­ple all over the coun­try are not go­ing to agree to re­sults from these ma­chines.” Cit­ing elec­toral laws that pro­hibit elec­tronic vot­ing, Ka­tumbi says the use of the ma­chines would nul­lify the elec­tion. In a video that has gone vi­ral on so­cial me­dia, Koffi Olo­mide, a mu­si­cal star and friend of Ka­tumbi, is back­ing the ac­tivist cam­paign against the vot­ing ma­chines.

POS­SI­BLE DE­LAYS

With elec­tions loom­ing, it will take some hard bar­gain­ing be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion to reach agree­ment over the ma­chines. This lat­est stand-off has raised con­cerns that the vote could be de­layed again, as UN of­fi­cials and diplo­mats push for a com­pro­mise. If a deal is struck and Ka­bila leaves of­fice as sched­uled, he would have earned him­self a place in Congo’s his- tory, ac­cord­ing to au­thor and Congo spe­cial­ist Ja­son Stearns. “There are many dif­fer­ent Joseph Ka­bi­las, al­though one has the ten­dency to re­mem­ber the one who is in power to­day,” says Stearns. “As a 29-year-old pres­i­dent, he talked with his en­e­mies, in­vited in UN peace­keep­ers and opened up the econ­omy. These de­ci­sions had a hugely ben­e­fi­cial im­pact on many Con­golese and ush­ered in new demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and the first elec­tions in 40 years.” Stearns con­trasts that Ka­bila with to­day’s more fa­mil­iar ver­sion: “the man who has ben­e­fited, along with his nar­row elite and to the ex­clu­sion of most Con­golese, from re­cent multi­na­tional in­vest­ment in the coun­try, who has done lit­tle to re­form his se­cu­rity ser­vices and deal with armed groups in the eastern

At least 18 out of the 21 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates re­ject vot­ing ma­chines

Congo, and who has presided over the re­pres­sion of the op­po­si­tion and the co-op­tion of lead­ers of all stripes.” China’s rise to dom­i­nance in the DRC’S econ­omy in the Ka­bila era has changed the coun­try’s land­scape be­yond recog­ni­tion, with new high­ways and rail­ways. Chi­nese com­pa­nies are min­ing some 60% of Congo’s cobalt, a key in­gre­di­ent for bat­ter­ies in elec­tric cars (see page 29).

PROSPECTS FOR PROS­PER­ITY

Yet the elite net­works of busi­ness, po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests iden­ti­fied by a UN in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2002 main­tain a wrestler’s grip over min­eral riches and the con­tracts to ex­tract them. This pri­vati­sa­tion of Congo’s pat­ri­mony has ac­cel­er­ated un­der Ka­bila, and the state’s ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­pac­ity has re­mained chron­i­cally weak. Civil ser­vants are paid a pit­tance and they ex­tract rents in the form of bribes and con­tract com­mis­sions. Many Con­golese who grew up un­der Mobutu would con­cede that the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is more open: op­po­si­tion news­pa­pers and po­lit­i­cal tracts cir­cu­late widely, as does tren­chant crit­i­cism of the regime on so­cial me­dia. But there are strict lim­its to this, as seen in the re­pres­sion of protests call­ing for Ka­bila to hold elec­tions and leave. Op­ti­mists about the DRC, a se­lect group, talk about in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments and the grad­ual build­ing of in­sti­tu­tions. The big­ger pic­ture is the prospect of trans­form­ing one of the rich­est coun­tries in Africa, in terms of nat­u­ral re­sources, into a mod­ern di­ver­si­fied econ­omy. That lies partly in the coun­try’s com­bi­na­tion of rich cobalt re­serves, cop­per mines and its abun­dant hy­dro­elec­tric ca­pac­ity. A still-hazy vi­sion of that fu­ture emerged in Septem­ber when a Chi­ne­seS­pan­ish con­sor­tium an­nounced its plans to raise some $18bn to build the Inga III dam, which could gen­er­ate 11,000MW, mak­ing it one of the big­gest hy­dropower pro­jects in the world. It would both pro­vide en­ergy and pro­mote eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. South Africa has al­ready signed a deal to pur­chase 2,500MW from the Inga project and en­ergy min­is­ter Jeff Radebe says it is ready to dou­ble that or­der. That is the vi­sion and the op­por­tu­nity for Congo’s trans­for­ma­tion. But first ts po­lit­i­cal class and their par­ti­sans have to agree on how to or­gan­ise cred­i­ble elec­tions this year. That is prov­ing even trick­ier than rais­ing $18bn for a gar­gan­tuan dam.

Vot­ers hope Ka­bila is not hid­ing any fi­nal tricks

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