DRC at a his­tor­i­cal turn­ing point

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - David-Ngendo Tshimba

UN­CER­TAINTY hangs over the date of pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions, yet Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s term ex­pires on De­cem­ber 19, 2016 and he is not el­i­gi­ble for re-elec­tion.

The op­po­si­tion re­jects the pos­si­bil­ity of Ka­bila con­tin­u­ing in of­fice as elec­tions are or­gan­ised. But there is an al­ter­na­tive. The Con­golese can for­get about elec­tions and in­stead imag­ine a dif­fer­ent way of or­gan­is­ing their so­ci­ety away from lib­eral democ­racy.

It is now ar­gued that po­lit­i­cal gover­nance by the ex­er­cise of a high de­gree of the mo­nop­oly of vi­o­lence and hu­man rights abuses, hith­erto char­ac­ter­is­tic of many po­lit­i­cal regimes in Africa dur­ing the Cold War era, has come to be re­garded as an ex­cep­tion rather than the gen­eral rule in post-Cold War dis­pen­sa­tions across most of the con­ti­nent. Ar­guably, the pe­riod since the late 1980s in Africa has wit­nessed a re­newed ef­fort at re­or­gan­is­ing the African po­lit­i­cal space in ways that would make the ex­er­cise of power more at­tuned to the de­mands of the cit­i­zenry.

By the mid-1990s, the mo­men­tum for po­lit­i­cal re­forms had ef­fec­tively be­come an un­stop­pable Africa-wide move­ment. The con­ti­nent over, the sin­gle-party and mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships that had been erected in the course of the pe­riod from the mid-1960s to mid1970s gave way — one af­ter the other — to do­mes­tic pop­u­lar pres­sures for not only lib­er­al­i­sa­tion but even out­right democrati­sa­tion of the po­lit­i­cal space. This post-Cold War wave of democrati­sa­tion ush­ered in the restora­tion of multi-party pol­i­tics, the or­gan­i­sa­tion of elec­tions, the li­cens­ing of pri­vate elec­tronic and print me­dia, and the re­moval of the worst re­stric­tions on the or­gan­i­sa­tion of pub­lic po­lit­i­cal meet­ings.

There, there­fore, seemed to be grow­ing agree­ment as to how po­lit­i­cal power should be trans­ferred —the hold­ing of pe­ri­odic and demo­cratic elec­tions (‘elec­toc­racy’) be­ing the sine qua non of po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and of so­ci­ety’s peace­ful devel­op­ment. As Lanc­iné Sylla once posited, if the winds of democ­racy are blow­ing over Africa to­day, one rea­son may be that democ­racy pro­vides a ra­tio­nal so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of suc­ces­sion. Lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of the po­lit­i­cal regime in a sense, Sylla fur­ther main­tains, forces a coun­try to es­tab­lish a ra­tio­nal sys­tem for trans­fer­ring power.

Par­tic­u­larly in post-Cold War sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, there has been a rapidly grow­ing re­liance on elec­toral pro­cesses as the prin­ci­pal way to le­git­imise gover­nance at na­tional, re­gional, and lo­cal lev­els. Com­ing from the con­text of a bipo­lar world from where the cri­sis and the col­lapse of one side (Com­mu­nism) seemed to have val­i­dated the vic­tory and su­pe­ri­or­ity of the other (Cap­i­tal­ism), Ernest Wam­ba­dia-Wamba point­edly noted that the po­lit­i­cal death of bu­reau­cratic so­cial­ism has pro­pelled the par­lia­men­tar­ian mode of pol­i­tics (which in­cludes lib­eral democ­racy) to a hege­monic po­si­tion.

Cel­e­brants of cap­i­tal­ism in the West, Wamba-dia-Wamba un­der­scored, have seized the oc­ca­sion to in­ten­sify the pro­pa­ganda for a free mar­ket econ­omy and multi-party democ­racy. Hence, this West­ern-in­duced par­lia­men­tar­ian mode of pol­i­tics has been per­ceived as an in­escapable means for stim­u­lat­ing the devel­op­ment of demo­cratic pol­i­tics; for choos­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives; for form­ing gov­ern­ments; and for con­fer­ring le­git­i­macy upon the new po­lit­i­cal or­der.

2011 in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) would have been the year for post-in­de­pen­dence Con­golese peo­ple to un­dergo a lib­eral demo­cratic ex­per­i­ment of free and fair elec­tions for the sec­ond time ever since the coun­try ac­ceded to na­tional sovereignty in 1960. In 2006, in a bid to end a two-decade long se­ries of armed con­flict, which plagued the coun­try in what has been termed as the ‘worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis’ Africa has ever suf­fered since World War II, elec­tions were held af­ter a three-year tran­si­tion from which Joseph Ka­bila emerged as the elected pres­i­dent. Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ment, the 2011 pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions were con­ducted in an even more charged so­cio-po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere — a re­vi­sion of the 2005 pro­mul­gated Con­sti­tu­tion hav­ing taken place less than a year to the polls.

Marred by sig­nif­i­cant ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and mal­prac­tices com­pro­mis­ing the very stated agree­able stan­dards of lib­eral democ­racy, these elec­tions could not have brought any sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of a na­tion yet known for its post-in­de­pen­dence demo­cratic de­fi­cien­cies. Al­ready at the time of the Congo con­tro­versy dur­ing the Leopoldian rule more than a cen­tury ago, Adam Hochschild posits that the idea of full hu­man rights, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and so­cial for the Con­golese peo­ple was a pro­found threat to the es­tab­lish­ment of most coun­tries on earth; per­haps, it still is to date. To add in­sult to the in­jury, what seemed to have mat­tered most for the in­cum­bent regime in 2011 was mere regime con­sol­i­da­tion against all odds. Iron­i­cally, though less sur­pris­ingly, cel­e­brants of the lib­eral demo­cratic or­der in the West (the US as its van­guard) came in handy to rub­ber-stamp the out­come of these 2011 gen­eral elec­tions with lit­tle to no con­sid­er­a­tion of dissenting views from within the Con­golese body politic. To levy even a weight­ier cri­tique against this in­cum­bent regime, cit­ing Karl Marx, it came to sig­nify the “un­lim­ited despo­tism of one class over other classes.”

The oth­er­wise lit­tle-hard-earned prece­dence of the 2006 elec­tions was sim­ply erased by the 2011 per­for­mance. With (i) a po­lit­i­cal elite (as form­ing a com­prador bour­geoisie) in con­nivance with in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal­ists (whether from pre­vi­ous me­trop­o­lises or oth­er­wise) deeply in­volved in can­cer­ous deals of cor­rup­tion which robs its cit­i­zenry of the ba­sic ex­pec­ta­tions and the sub­se­quent sheer lack of fight against it; (ii) a quasi-ab­sence of state in­sti­tu­tions (more so se­cu­rity and ju­di­cial ap­pa­ra­tuses) to pro­tect the in­alien­able free­doms of the cit­i­zenry; (iii) a con­tin­u­ous ten­dency by the so-called in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to un­ques­tion­ably em­bark on mas­sive sup­port for pe­ri­od­i­cal gen­eral elec­tions in the midst of sheer prim­i­tive ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal and hu­man in­se­cu­rity de­vour­ing the cit­i­zenry at the ex­pense of state in­er­tia/in­dif­fer­ence, one is left to ques­tion the yet om­nipresent faith in the gospel of lib­eral democ­racy at this his­tor­i­cally pe­cu­liar po­lit­i­cal junc­ture of the Congo sit­u­a­tion.

The de­bate over a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis loom­ing large 2016, though not yet through, ar­guably presages a loom­ing cri­sis of le­git­i­macy of power on the po­lit­i­cal ta­pes­try of the DRC. Joseph Ka­bila, at the coun­try’s pres­i­dency since 2001, will have ex­hausted his con­sti­tu­tion­ally le­git­i­mate hold onto power on De­cem­ber 19 2016, fol­low­ing his pre­vi­ous and con­sti­tu­tion­ally last re-elec­tion for a five-year term of of­fice in 2011.

For the body in charge of the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the elec­tions —Com­mis­sion Elec­torale Na­tionale Indépen­dante (CENI) — as for the rul­ing party and its po­lit­i­cal coali­tion (Al­liance pour la Ma­jorité Prési­den­tielle, AMP), the hold­ing of this year’s pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions is squarely con­di­tioned by the re­view and up­dat­ing of the 2011 voter regis­ter — an ex­er­cise which calls for a new pop­u­la­tion cen­sus, tak­ing min­i­mally six­teen months (slip­ping into Au­gust 2017). For the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion as for the so-called in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity (self-as­sessed democ­ra­cies from the geopo­lit­i­cal West), the hold­ing of the elec­tions in due course — be­fore the end to the con­sti­tu­tional man­date for the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent and leg­is­la­tors—re­mains a con­di­tion sine qua none for restor­ing the DRC on the yet in­creas­ingly elu­sive demo­cratic path.

Fi­nally, the re­cently launched po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue (which has gath­ered to­gether the AMP, some par­ties of po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion and a few rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the civil so­ci­ety) un­der the aus­pices of for­mer To­golese Prime Min­is­ter Edem Kodjo on be­half of the African Union, now seems to have resched­uled the hold­ing of this year’s pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions sine die. In hind­sight, for more than thirty years, Pres­i­dent Joseph Mobutu had mo­nop­o­lised po­lit­i­cal space in Zaire/DRC such that the re­newed multi-party com­pe­ti­tion in the 1990s led to what Thomas Turner termed the emer­gence of two vast, ill-de­fined po­lit­i­cal ten­den­cies: the pres­i­den­tial ten­dency and the “sa­cred union” of the op­po­si­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, the po­lit­i­cal dis­course that was char­ac­ter­is­tic of the (in)fa­mous Con­fer­ence Na­tionale Sou­veraine dur­ing the democrati­sa­tion phase in the Sec­ond Repub­lic is be­ing re­layed in the present de­bate over the le­git­i­macy of the soon­ex­pir­ing con­sti­tu­tional man­date of the Ka­bila regime.

I am struck less by the propen­sity that has come to char­ac­terise the po­lit­i­cal vibe across the spec­trum of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide than by the sheer lack of a con­sid­ered his­tor­i­cal re­flec­tion for such an un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion with yet in­sight­ful prece­dents in the po­lit­i­cal an­nals of modern Congo. That a huge po­lit­i­cal-con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis looms large for the coun­try’s fore­see­able fu­ture is no first-ever oc­cur­rence in the his­tory of modern Congo as the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal de­bate on the le­git­i­macy of the Ka­bila regime post-De­cem­ber 19, 2016 seems to sug­gest. No doubt, both the de­mand for and the lack of the hold­ing of gen­eral elec­tions (pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive) for the es­tab­lish­ment of a new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion post-De­cem­ber 19, 2016 presages a cer­tain de­gree of in­cer­ti­tude re­plete with a po­ten­tial for po­lit­i­cal desta­bil­i­sa­tion in the hori­zon. But to be­stow upon the cur­rent loom­ing cri­sis the po­ten­tial of an un­prece­dented po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity — the kind of a “po­lit­i­cal tsunami” as re­cur­rent in var­i­ous analy­ses (whether pol­icy, aca­demic or Press) — is tan­ta­mount to in­flat­ing the con­tem­po­rary over its his­tor­i­cal prece­dents with no sound ba­sis what­so­ever.

Cast­ing a his­tor­i­cal light onto the con­tem­po­rary The bone of the con­tention in the un­fold­ing po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in to­day’s DRC can be summed up in the fol­low­ing ques­tion: If Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila wants to con­tinue as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency post-De­cem­ber 19, 2016 in view of no pres­i­den­tial elec­tions ush­er­ing in a new of­fice­holder, will he be en­ti­tled to the po­si­tion or will he sim­ply be an usurper? Ev­i­dently, in an­swer­ing this ques­tion both those for the AMP and those against it have brought forth the point that, as in­cum­bent, Joseph Ka­bila was sworn-in un­der a fairly clearcut con­sti­tu­tion that spec­i­fies who can and who can­not rule — those against the AMP pro­duc­ing rea­sons why he can­not and those for the AMP ar­gu­ing that he can. By and large, the idea of a con­sti­tu­tion, whether as a fixed doc­u­ment (as the Lock­ean Amer­i­can is likely to en­vi­sion it), or as a set of well es­tab­lished and con­sis­tently fol­lowed cus­toms and prece­dents (as the Hobbe­sian Bri­tish is likely to see it) is cru­cial here.

Yet, any dis­cus­sion of le­git­i­macy as­sumes that the re­sort to his­tor­i­cal prece­dents will pro­duce a clear and un­am­bigu­ous an­swer on the cor­rect rules to fol­low. John Thorn­ton, how­ever, aptly points out that such an at­ti­tude also as­sumes that the con­sti­tu­tion is es­sen­tially fixed and un­chang­ing. In­deed, con­sti­tu­tions may ap­pear un­chang­ing at times, but typ­i­cally such times are sit­u­a­tions in which there is a sta­ble, un­chal­lenged po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, in which most po­lit­i­cal ac­tors ac­cept the his­tor­i­cal or ge­nealog­i­cal va­lid­ity of the prece­dents and are will­ing to chan­nel their per­sonal and group am­bi­tions along the lines pro­vided in the con­sti­tu­tion. But the idea of a fixed con­sti­tu­tion, as Thorn­ton fur­ther points out, can hold only in a sit­u­a­tion of sta­bil­ity and wide­spread agree­ment on what the rules are: In sit­u­a­tions where po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions are chang­ing, the fix­ity of con­sti­tu­tional law quickly breaks down.

To il­lus­trate this, Martin Chanock’s study of cus­tom­ary law in colo­nial Zam­bia and Malawi ar­gues that in the con­fused pe­riod of the late nine­teenth cen­tury there was no con­sen­sus on what law was, if there had ever been a law. In­deed, a uni­form law ap­peared only with the es­tab­lish­ment of a dom­i­nant colo­nial state, as tra­di­tion­al­ists, colo­nial lawyers and the ad­min­is­tra­tion grad­u­ally shaped a ‘cus­tom­ary’ law out of bits and pieces of re­ceived prece­dent to make a new le­gal sys­tem that served their own needs.

To cite but one his­tor­i­cal oc­cur­rence, Thorn­ton re­veals to us that the po­lit­i­cal strug­gle of the late six­teenth and early sev­en­teenth cen­turies in the King­dom of Kongo en­gen­dered ri­val­ries and power strug­gles which re­duced con­sen­sus about the ex­act na­ture of the con­sti­tu­tion. The ef­fect of this po­lit­i­cal ri­valry on con­sti­tu­tional con­sen­sus is il­lus­trated by a suc­ces­sion cri­sis be­tween 1615 and 1630 that had gen­er­ated a sub­stan­tial cor­re­spon­dence from ri­val fac­tions of the Kongo royal fam­ily and their sup­port­ers, in which they of­ten cited com­pletely op­posed prin­ci­ples ex­tracted from the “most an­cient cus­toms and laws” as found in the “chron­i­cles of those kings”. Never was the de­bate about whether con­sti­tu­tions or con­sti­tu­tional rea­son­ing did or did not ex­ist; all might agree that there was, or at least ought to be, a con­sti­tu­tion. Rather, their con­flict was over ex­actly what it was. Ul­ti­mately, Thorn­ton un­der­scores, the real res­o­lu­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional prob­lems lay as much in who could win the strug­gles in the ma­te­rial field, through mar­shal­ing sup­port­ers or armies, as in who could con­vince their rivals of the truth of his­tor­i­cal or le­gal prece­dents: The ar­gu­ments of the ma­te­rial vic­tors were ob­vi­ously quite likely to be ac­cepted even if they were un­true.

A se­ries of let­ters (26 in to­tal, be­tween 1613 and 1643) from Kongo monar­chs to Rome, prin­ci­pally ad­dressed to the “pro­tec­tor” of the Kongo King­dom in Rome, Juan Bautista Vives—put into a sin­gle codex in the Vat­i­can Li­brary, Vat­i­cana Latina MS 12516—brings to the fore per­sonal am­bi­tion and the com­plex­i­ties of Kongo pol­i­tics in the midst of a com­plex ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal strug­gle fought by Kon­golese and Ibe­ri­ans (as well as the Ro­man Curia) in Africa and in Europe. Par­tic­u­larly, dur­ing the strug­gle for the con­trol of the Kon­golese throne in the mid1620s, in­ter­nal pol­i­tics of the Kongo played a ma­jor role in how events and in­sti­tu­tions of the coun­try were re­ported by all wit­nesses, whether they were long-term knowl­edge­able res­i­dents, Kongo rulers them­selves or rel­a­tively short-term res­i­dents. Po­lit­i­cal crises and in­trigues wracked Kongo dur­ing the pe­riod that stretched from the death of King Al­varo II (1614) un­til the ac­ces­sion of Gar­cia II (1641), and in re­al­ity many con­flicts re­mained un­re­solved un­til the mid-1650s.

With re­gard to the is­sue of the rules of suc­ces­sion to the Kon­golese throne, Thorn­ton stresses that the ev­i­dence sup­plied in the se­ries of cor­re­spon­dences of the Kongo rulers in that pe­riod is yet con­tra­dic­tory and clearly shaped by po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. King Al­varo III, for in­stance, as­cended to the throne by over­throw­ing his un­cle Dom Bernardo II in 1614, and in a let­ter to Pope Paul V ex­plained his ac­tion in words re­veal­ing con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples at stake. In stat­ing a num­ber of con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples in his let­ter, Al­varo III im­plied that the king­dom be­longed to him, ap­par­ently by right of de­scent to a close rel­a­tive, per­haps even pri­mo­gen­i­ture, and dis­missed the ba­sis for Bernardo’s claims for the lat­ter was only a bas­tard half-brother of the king. How­ever, other sources in­ter­ested in this out­come made an ar­gu­ment for dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples al­to­gether, im­ply­ing that Bernardo II was a le­git­i­mate ruler by right of be­ing a brother of the dead Al­varo II, sug­gest­ing fairly loose rules of de­scent, more so for Al­varo II not hav­ing a le­git­i­mate son by the Queen, his wife. Hence, these two con­tra­dic­tory ac­counts re­flect the par­ties in­ter­ested in cast­ing Kongo’s rules of suc­ces­sion in a par­tic­u­lar light.

In­ter­est­ingly, the suc­ces­sion of the next king, Pe­dro II also raised con­sti­tu­tional prob­lems. Par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in Pe­dro’s let­ter to Vives for his le­git­i­ma­tion was his con­tention that the po­si­tion of king was elec­tive as per the ‘most an­cient laws and cus­toms of this king­dom’ and not hered­i­tary, and that the coun­try could not sup­port a re­gency—key is­sues in Pe­dro’s claims against the in­fant son of King Al­varo III, but clearly dif­fer­ent from Al­varo’s con­tentions about his own suc­ces­sion. In Thorn­ton’s fi­nal anal­y­sis, there­fore, whether Kongo’s sys­tem of suc­ces­sion was elec­tive or hered­i­tary, whether re­gents were or were not tol­er­ated, or rules of kin­ship de­ter­mined el­i­gi­bil­ity for suc­ces­sion are all open ques­tions, which can­not be an­swered sim­ply by match­ing in­ter­nal (from Kon­golese rulers them­selves) sources against ex­ter­nal (from wit­nesses, whether long-term or short-term res­i­dents) ones. By way of his­tor­i­cal ex­trap­o­la­tion, I dare posit that the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal de­bate over Ka­bila’s hold of of­fice post-19 De­cem­ber 2016—com­monly re­ferred to as glisse­ment du regime— is rem­i­nis­cent of the de­bate over re­gency in sev­en­teenth cen­tury Kongo. Viewed against this his­tor­i­cal back­drop, the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal de­bate on a loom­ing con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis in the DRC only points to a grow­ing feel­ing of déjà vu and empti­ness, which sadly brings to the fore the ‘irony of lib­eral democ­racy’ as dis­em­pow­er­ment and las­si­tude. Isn’t this con­sti­tu­tion­ally thorny is­sue of glisse­ment too an open ques­tion whose an­swer can­not be pro­vided sim­ply by putting forth one in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 70, Clause 1 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Third Repub­lic (end of term of of­fice) against the other (con­tin­u­a­tion of as­sum­ing of­fice up un­til the swear­ing-in of a new of­fice­holder)? Re­al­is­ing that each of these in­ter­pre­ta­tions ul­ti­mately in­tends to present its own an­swer to fit into a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated both in­side and out­side the coun­try is per­haps the first step in the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the lim­its of such di­choto­mous rea­son­ing over the cur­rent loom­ing con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

A close read­ing of the po­lit­i­cal his­tory of most of post-in­de­pen­dence Africa, and the DRC in par­tic­u­lar, seems to sug­gest that very lit­tle has been im­proved upon in terms of in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity to build vi­able gover­nance struc­tures for con­flict man­age­ment—po­lit­i­cal or oth­er­wise. Sadly, it is as though the DRC is ei­ther bereft of any sig­nif­i­cant lessons from its own past ex­pe­ri­ences recorded in its so­ciopo­lit­i­cal an­nals (oral and writ­ten) or im­mune to lessons-learn­ing (whether clas­si­cal or much more con­tem­po­rary) from the avail­able lit­er­a­ture recorded in the neigh­bour­ing con­texts. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to pon­der that on a bal­ance sheet of po­lit­i­cal gover­nance, due to this lack of his­tor­i­cal lessons-learn­ing, the DRC (and the con­ti­nent at large) still reg­is­ters more li­a­bil­i­ties than as­sets. And this is truly re­flected in the dis­il­lu­sion­ment about the ways in which the per­for­mance of lib­eral democ­racy by way of em­pha­sis on pe­ri­odic gen­eral elec­tions is now akin to an at­tempt at squar­ing cir­cles. In his re­flec­tions on the ideal type of a po­lit­i­cal com­mu­nity, Jean-Jac­ques Rousseau pon­dered:

“If Sparta and Rome have per­ished, what state can hope to last for ever? If we want the con­sti­tu­tion that we have es­tab­lished to en­dure, let us not seek, there­fore, to make it eter­nal… The po­lit­i­cal body, like the hu­man, be­gins to die as soon as it is born, and car­ries within it the causes of its own de­struc­tion. But the one and the other can be more or less ro­bustly con­sti­tuted, so as to be pre­served for a longer or shorter time.”

In his Pol­i­tics (Book III), Aris­to­tle de­scribed three forms of gov­ern­ment and the three cor­rup­tions of them—‘tyranny’ as a de­vi­a­tion from king­ship, ‘oli­garchy’ from aris­toc­racy, and ‘democ­racy’ from polity (po­liteia). Aris­to­tle posits that tyranny is rule by one per­son for the ben­e­fit of the monarch while oli­garchy is for the rich, and democ­racy is for the ben­e­fit of the poor. Hence, none of these forms of gov­ern­ment (con­sti­tu­tions) ac­cord­ing to Aris­to­tle is for their com­mon profit. But when the mul­ti­tude gov­erns for the com­mon ben­e­fit, it is called by the name com­mon to all con­sti­tu­tions, namely, po­liteia. Re­mark­ably, as the past two ex­per­i­ments of elec­tions in the DRC have shown, re­sort­ing to the bal­lots and not to the gun is no guar­an­tee for restora­tion of firm po­lit­i­cal or­der—let alone a po­liteia.

Re­mark­ably, the in­sis­tence on the or­gan­i­sa­tion of elec­tions for pur­poses of le­git­imi­sa­tion of power may sim­ply not be very mean­ing­ful in the first place—a hol­low rit­ual and more so one that does pro­vide an oth­er­wise au­to­cratic regime with a façade of le­git­i­macy—or, worse still, may lead to a re­newal of vi­o­lence only ca­pa­ble of wors­en­ing an al­ready bad sit­u­a­tion. To be sure, the West it­self, David Van Rey­brouck re­minds us, has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with forms of demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion for the last two and a half mil­len­nia, but it has been less than a cen­tury since it has started putting its faith in uni­ver­sal suf­frage through free elec­tions. If any­thing, there­fore, Van Rey­brouck main­tains that the hold­ing of gen­eral elec­tions should not be the kick­off to a process of na­tional democrati­sa­tion, but the crown­ing glory to that process—or at least one of the fi­nal steps. - Pam­bazuka

DRC Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila

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