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DR Congo - Politics

Prime minister

Patrice Emery Lumumba24 Jun 196005 Sep 1960
Joseph Iléo 13 Dec 196005 Aug 1961
Cyrille Adoula02 Aug 196130 Jun 1964
Moïse Kapenda Tshombé10 Jul 196413 Oct 1965
Évariste Kimba 18 Oct 196514 Nov 1965
Léonard Mulumba25 Nov 196526 Oct 1966


Joseph Kasavubu01 Jul 196025 Nov 1965
Antoine Gizenga31 Mar 196105 Aug 1961
Joseph-Désiré Mobutu Sese Seko25 Nov 196516 May 1997
Laurent Désiré Kabila17 May 199716 Jan 2001
Joseph Kabila Kabange17 Jan 2001Dec 2016
Felix Tshisekedi10 Jan 2017? 2022 ?
Unlike the West African region, which recently saw Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh forced out of power following a military intervention by the regional ECOWAS bloc, the Great Lakes area – which includes DR Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – remains a victim of the African “president for life” malaise. History has however shown that the road to political stability in DR Congo has been, for the most, an illusory path.

The DRC has had a turbulent history. In 1965, fewer than 5 years after the nation achieved independence from Belgium, a military regime seized control of the DRC and ruled, often brutally, for more than 3 decades. It was toppled in 1997 by a coalition of internal groups and neighboring countries to the east, including Rwanda and Uganda, after dissident Rwandan groups began operating in the DRC.

Subsequent efforts by a new DRC government to secure the withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan troops prompted a second war in 1998 that eventually drew the armies of three more African nations into the DRC. Beginning in 1999, a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force was deployed to the DRC. After a series of U.S.-supported peace talks that began in 2001, the other nations withdrew all or most of their troops and an interim government was established.

On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated, allegedly by a member of his personal bodyguard corps who was in turn killed by an aide-de-camp. Kabila was succeeded by his son Joseph, who reversed many of his father's negative policies. Over the next year, the UN peacekeeping mission in the D.R.C. (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC) deployed throughout the country, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue proceeded.

By the end of 2002, all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the D.R.C. Following D.R.C.-Rwanda talks in South Africa that culminated in the Pretoria Accord in July 2002, Rwandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in October 2002. However, there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with the forces of an RCD splinter group (RCD/G) in eastern D.R.C. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in May 2003.

In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began in Addis Ababa under the auspices of a facilitator, former Botswana president Ketumile Masire. The initial meetings made little progress and were adjourned. On February 25, 2002, the dialogue was reconvened in South Africa. It included representatives from the government, rebel groups, political opposition, civil society, and Mai-Mai groups (Congolese local defense militias). The talks ended inconclusively on April 19, 2002, when the government and the MLC brokered an agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates at the dialogue but left out the RCD/G and opposition UDPS party, among others.

This partial agreement was never implemented, and negotiations resumed in South Africa in October 2002. This time, the talks led to an all-inclusive agreement, which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on December 17, 2002, and formally ratified by all parties on April 2, 2003. That same day, a transitional constitution was adopted.

Following nominations by each of the various signatory groups, President Joseph Kabila on June 30, 2003, issued a decree that formally announced the transitional government lineup. Four vice presidents (each representing a specific party, faction, or region) took their oaths of office on July 17, 2003, and most incoming ministers assumed their new functions within days thereafter.

During the transitional government period, President Joseph Kabila made significant progress in liberalizing domestic political activity and undertaking economic reforms in cooperation with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, serious human rights problems remained in the security services and justice system.

The first democratic elections for over 40 years took place in July and October 2006. Joseph Kabila was elected President with 58.05% of the vote in the second round. He was inaugurated as President on 6 December 2006 for a 5-year term.

The elected National Assembly held its opening session on 22 September 2006. The PPRD party of President Kabila took 114 of 500 seats, the largest number of any political party, and controlled more than 200 through its political allies. On 19 January 2007 a 108 seat Senate was indirectly elected, with the PPRD again taking the largest share of seats (22), with the MLC (party of Jean-Pierre Bemba) obtaining 14. Parliamentarians had a 5-year mandate.

Political veteran Antoine Gizenga was named as Prime Minister on 30 December 2006. President Kabila and PM Gizenga announced a government of 60 Ministers on 5 February 2007, which saw several new names enter the Congolese political scene. Jean-Pierre Bemba was forced into exile in Portugal following violence between armed elements under his command and the Congolese army in March 2007 and has yet to return to the country. Political progress since the elections was extremely slow.

Provincial assemblies were elected on January 16, 2007, indirectly elected 108 members of the Senate and provincial governors later that month. Provincial assembly elections originally scheduled for March 2012 were delayed due to the irregularities of the November 2011 polls. Local elections had been tentatively scheduled for late 2012 and early 2013, but were delayed as well.

Parliament became increasingly dominated by the executive branch. In the first years after the 2006 elections, Parliament offered limited checks on the executive, with committees providing oversight of ministries and meaningful discussion of proposed laws. After the removal of National Assembly president Kamerhe in 2009, however, and his replacement by close Kabila ally Évariste Boshab, the National Assembly rarely challenged the executive branch and instead became a point of blockage for numerous initiatives that could potentially have limited executive authority, from the implementation of decentralization to the establishment of judicial institutions stipulated in the Constitution.

On November 28, 2011, the D.R.C. held only its second multi-party election in more than 45 years. Almost 19 million registered voters cast ballots for president (from among 11 candidates) and National Assembly deputies (from almost 19,000 candidates vying for 500 seats). Voter turnout was almost 60%. Significant technical and logistical difficulties as well as isolated incidents of violence and intimidation marred the elections and the tabulation process.

Domestic and international observers judged that these technical and logistical problems and the lack of transparency in the tabulation process contributed to serious flaws in the presidential and legislative election process. Nevertheless, the elections were largely calm and orderly. According to the D.R.C.’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), incumbent President Kabila won with 48.95% of the vote, compared to 32.33% for Etienne Tshisekedi, his nearest challenger. The new National Assembly convened for the first time in February 2012. A new cabinet was named in April 2012.

Several international observer missions stated the results of the elections “lacked credibility,” due largely to irregularities and a lack of transparency in the vote tabulation process. NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, reported security forces killed or arbitrarily detained dozens of citizens prior to the voting. The election results for approximately 340 of the 500 parliamentary seats were contested at the Supreme Court. Many of the cases reportedly had little merit. In April 2012 the Supreme Court certified the results of 482 parliamentary electoral contests.

The 2011 elections increased the representation of parties allied with President Kabila, and also resulted in massive turnover, bringing in a large number of deputies who lacked political experience and some of whom may feel that they owe their positions to national leaders who manipulated election results in their favor. Most Members of Parliament don’t have the background to know how to function in Parliament. It takes five years to learn how the system really works, and by then their term is up.

President Kabila appointed Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon, of Maniema, as prime minister of a new government in April 2012. Matata had previously been Minister of Finance since 2010 and was a protégé of Katumba Mwanke. In many ways, the Matata government appeared more competent and efficient than its predecessors. First of all, it counted only 37 members, as against 61 for Gizenga (2007), 53 for Muzito I (2008), and 43 for Muzito II (2010). Although some portfolios were large, this reduction in personnel should have beneficial fiscal consequences. There were virtually no “big men” among the ministers and more technocrats than usual.

On 16 April 2013, President Kabila promulgated a bill establishing a new Independent National Election Commission responsible for the planning, implementation, and oversight of local, provincial, and national elections. By year’s end a date for provincial and local elections, originally scheduled for early 2012, was not rescheduled.

The law on the status and rights of the political opposition recognizes opposition parties represented as well as those not represented in parliament. The law also details the various “sacred” rights and obligations of opposition parties. Although political parties were able to operate most of the time without restriction or outside interference, opposition members were sometimes arbitrarily arrested, harassed, and prevented from holding public rallies.

Opposition parties in the DRC contested the electoral process for months, with deadly consequences in January 2015, when according to Human Rights Watch, at least 40 people were killed in street protests. The government denies that figure and has said about a dozen people died. Those protests led to the announcement of an electoral calendar, but by April 2015 opposition activists were contesting the date set for local and provincial elections in 2015, which they said is too soon. They said logistics are not in place and many young voters would be excluded. The opposition would prefer to have provincial elections in 2015 followed by presidential and legislative elections in 2016.

Opposition parties called for demonstrations 19 September 2016 to protest the delay of elections, calling it an effort by President Joseph Kabila to hold onto power. Congolese police, armed forces and the Republican Guard used excessive – including lethal – force during demonstrations in Kinshasa on 19 September 2016, when at least 53 people were killed over two days, 143 injured and more than 299 unlawfully arrested, according to a UN preliminary investigation report released 21 October 2016.

The preliminary investigation by the UN Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO documented 422 victims of human rights violations, including violations of the right to life, to physical integrity, to the liberty and security of the person, peaceful assembly and expression. The figures do not reflect the full extent of the violations, as the UN teams were denied access to official records of some morgues and public hospitals as well as various detention facilities, including two key facilities where many of those arrested and many dead bodies were reportedly taken. Investigations are ongoing.

Of the 53 people documented killed, including seven women and two children, at least 48 were killed by State agents, including the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) and soldiers of the Garde Républicaine (GR)and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC). The vast majority of the victims – 38 of them – were shot dead. Many of them were shot in the head, chest and back, including a five-year-old girl who was shot in the back.

The Kabila camp holds an overwhelming majority in parliament. The announcement of the new prime minister should indicate to what extent Tshisekedi is a free agent. In early March 2018, Tshisekedi and Kabila issued a joint statement confirming "their common will to govern together as part of a coalition government." The statement went on to say that in order to reflect the will of the people, Tshisekedi's CACH would form a coalition with Kabila's FCC, which holds an absolute majority in Parliament. The FCC, a coalition of several political parties itself, holds 342 of the 485 seats in Parliament. CACH has 50 lawmakers.

After his election victory in 2018, the performance of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, is up for scrutiny. By May 2019, he had yet to name a prime minister and cabinet. After his first 100 days in office, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo were impatiently waiting for him to fulfill the many promises he made at his inauguration, most notably to fight corruption, install a fair judicial system and improve living conditions for the country's 86 million people.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2019 18:40:08 ZULU