Congo voters battle against presidential power lust

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/10/15, 08:30 am

As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares for its upcoming elections, the battle against the incumbent president’s run for a third term rages on.

Joseph Kabila has held presidential power in the DRC since 2001. His second term will end next year and the law rules a third term unconstitutional. In January, Kabila proposed a new electoral law that called for a census before the country’s elections next November. His administration admitted the census could delay the 2016 elections, which triggered protests from people who called it a ploy by the president to delay stepping down.

Leaders of opposition parties also saw Kabila’s call for a “national dialogue” regarding peaceful elections as a scheme to postpone them. During a visit to Congo last week, Tom Malinowski, U.S assistant secretary of state for human rights, said the dialogue should not be used as an excuse to delay elections. Kabila's administration called Malinowski’s statements “unacceptable” and accused him of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explains these tactics are part of a recurring pattern: “In the last election (2011), he made changes to the electoral law six months before the election that were to his advantage. Changes to the rules in the middle of the game is undemocratic, especially when the incumbent has so much power.”

The thirst for power among political leaders is a trend in African nations. Blaise Compaore, 27-year president of Burkina Faso, stepped down in October after facing opposition for seeking another term. Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is also seeking a third term. Cooke said this method of seeking power has replaced the old style of coups, and the ongoing protests in some African countries are a sign that “people are willing to empower themselves and say no.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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