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Joseph Kabila Kabange

On February 23, 2015 two opposition officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo called on President Joseph Kabila to step down at the end of his term next year, saying the constitution barred him from seeking a third term. This came after the Independent National Electoral Commission has set presidential and parliamentary elections for November 27, 2016 if certain conditions are met, including the availability of funds to organize the vote.

In September 2015 seven political parties wrote a public letter which warned President Joseph Kabila against trying to stay in power beyond his constitutional two-term limit. President Joseph Kabila made a rare public speech 04 October 2015 at a meeting of his ruling coalition, the AMP. According to some media, his remarks implied that he will respect the constitution and the AMP will soon choose another candidate for the elections in November 2016.

Kabila’s term ends in December and because of constitutional term-limits, he is unable to run for re-election. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faced “very real risks of unrest and violence” over elections later this year while confronting a “significant deterioration” of security in its war-torn eastern provinces, the top United Nations official in the country warned 14 January 2016. “Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November of this year are a deeply divisive issue, particularly given the continued absence of an agreed electoral calendar or a budget for the elections,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special representative for DRC Maman S. Sidikou told the Security Council.

He noted that formal preparations for a National Dialogue announced by President Joseph Kabila to forge consensus on the process have not yet begun, in part due to strong opposition by many major opposition groups. “In the absence of agreement on the electoral process, political polarization has heightened tensions and contributed to an atmosphere of increased harassment and human rights violations,” he said, with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) registering over 260 election-related human rights violations, mostly against opposition members, civil society and journalists since 2015.

“This, combined with a rising number of human rights abuses by armed groups in eastern DRC, demonstrates a worrying trend of narrowing political space and a real challenge to the conduct of peaceful credible elections,” he added. “Given the very real risks of civil unrest and violence related to the electoral process, it is critical that all efforts be made to rebuild confidence among the stakeholders to find a way forward,” he said.

Former Katanga governor Moise Katumbi was nominated 30 March 2016 to the top seat at a conference for various opposition parties some of broke away from President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party. Katumbi, a multi-millionare businessman, become the main opposition leader following unanimous endorsements at the meeting held in the capital Kinshasa.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's top court ruled 11 May 2016 that President Joseph Kabila can stay in office beyond his mandate if the presidential election is delayed. Congo's Constitutional Court ruled according to clause 70 of the constitution, the current president remains in office until a newly-elected president is installed. The decision came amid rising political tension in Congo, where opposition parties accused President Kabila of trying to hang onto power by delaying polls that are due this year. Kabila's term expires in December, and the 44-year-old president is constitutionally barred from running for a new term. Opposition parties quickly denounced the court's decision.

By July 2016 it looked unlikely the polls will be held this year. The electoral commission says it needs more than a year to prepare the voter rolls. More time could work in the opposition’s favor, as there was no obvious opposition presidential candidate and the separate coalitions were still trying to form a united front. Moise Katumbi was the only politician to declare his intention to contest the presidential election. Katumbi left the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2016. He was the subject of two sets of legal charges, one of them over the alleged hiring of foreign mercenaries. In June 2016, he was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison. Returning home to campaign was out of the question.

A political dialogue that started 01 September 2016 was suspended in the hope that more of the opposition would attend. But the main opposition bloc, known as the Rassemblement, set pre-conditions for attending which were some way from being met. The bloc’s pre-conditions for participating in the dialogue include freeing political prisoners, lifting bans on several TV stations and the resignation of the dialogue's current facilitator, Edem Kodjo, a former chairman of the Organization of African Unity.

Government and opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced a compromise 14 September 2016 that could pave the way to elections in 2017. They have agreed to hold all elections at the same time if the technical and financial means allow it, and to delay the local polls if they do not. But the political future for Congo remained unclear, given that no dates have been set and some top opposition parties refused to take part in the talks.

Vita Kamerhre, the leader of the opposition delegation to the talks, argued that the presidential poll must come first. However, the president's side has long favored holding local and provincial polls before the legislative and presidential votes. Some predicted Kamerhe will become prime minister and several others will assume smaller roles in a new cabinet, which will be presented to the country as a government of national unity.

Most of the main opposition parties — which accused Kabila of trying to cling to power beyond the constitutional two-term limit — have refused to participate in the dialogue. Those parties formed a coalition called Le Rassemblement, the Assembly, headed by veteran opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi.

More than 40 people, most of them civilians, were killed in sporadic clashes between police and groups of young men on 20 September 2016 in some parts of the capital. Unusually for Kinshasa, trucks full of soldiers from the Republican Guard were out on the streets. Armed men set fire to at least five headquarters of opposition parties that helped to organize protests. Several pro-government parties saw their offices burned down during those protests. The opposition coalition known as the Rassemblement had organized a march to demand that President Joseph Kabila step down in December when his second term ends.

The country was scheduled to hold polls in November to elect a successor to the incumbent, Joesph Kabila, whose tenure expires in December 2016. He was by law unable to stand for another term because of the two term limit. But elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be delayed till December 2018 according to the Corneille Nangaa, head of the country’s electoral body. The DRC electoral commission boss was speaking on 01 October 2016. He said the electoral body would finish updating the voters register on 31 July 2017.. After which they would require over 500 days to organize the polls.

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Page last modified: 01-01-2017 14:51:26 ZULU