Kabila plays wait-and-see on DRC polls

Saturday August 26 2023

Democratic Republic of the Congo's outgoing president Joseph Kabila (L) shakes hands with newly inaugurated President Felix Tshisekedi after he was sworn-in in Kinshasa on January 24, 2019. PHOTO | AFP


Congolese politicians are not as predictable as sunrise. And as scheduled elections approach.

Some veteran politicians are either uninterested or protesting quietly at the perceived unlevel playing field.

Two such politicians are former president Joseph Kabila and erstwhile presidential candidate Martin Fayulu. In spite of elections dates falling on December 20 this year, they have appeared unfazed by the electioneering season.

Not that they don’t care. The former president has told senior members of his PPRD (People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy), and the wider coalition FCC (Common Front for Congo, his political family), not to take part in the elections until the Electoral Commission has been reconstituted.

He says he does not recognise the current team of the Independent National Electoral Commission led by Denis Kadima and is calling for a new Ceni (Independent National Electoral Commission) to be set up to guarantee equal opportunities for the various stakeholders in the electoral process.

Read: Is Tshisekedi really keen on holding polls?


“To ensure the credibility, transparency and inclusiveness of the electoral process, our demands have not changed one way or the other. Credibility requires a consensual independent national electoral commission, which means all stakeholders must be represented,” said Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Permanent Secretary of the PPRD.

Under DRC electoral law, all stakeholders must be represented on the electoral commission. Virtually all the opposition parties do not recognise those individuals who currently make up the Ceni. This is one of the points of friction on which the PPRD is clinging, calling for the Ceni and even the Constitutional Court to be reconstituted before the elections.

“We have to wait for Kabila’s signature or for someone to sign on Joseph Kabila’s behalf. That’s when we'll be able to say that the FCC is represented. We don’t know this independent national electoral commission,” Shadary added.

Nomination door shut

Martin Fayulu, who still considers himself ‘the elected president’, is also demanding a new audit of the voters’ list. In his view, the voters' list, with 43 million people registered by the electoral commission, “is riddled with false voters in preparation for electoral fraud”.

Kabila and Fayulu have stayed out of the electoral race, while the Ceni has already shut the door on nomination of candidates for the legislative election.

Read: Congo’s countdown to polls a hot potato

The election itself may rely on some factors before happening including the security situation in eastern parts of the country and funding.

President Félix Tshisekedi has already announced that he will defend his seat.

And allies such as Vital Kamerhe, and his party, the UNC, (Union pour la Nation Congolaise), has backed him for the contest. Other prospective contenders are opposition MP Delly Sessanga, former governor of Katanga province Moïse Katumbi, and former Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo.

The Tshisekedi camp responded to Kabila’s demands: “The opposition is not ready to go to the polls, hence their strategy of seeking dialogue that would lead to power-sharing and postpone the elections,” said Augustin Kabuya, Secretary General of Tshisekedi’s UDPS party.

Read: Tshisekedi’s headache in quest to win upcoming presidential poll

“They just want to discredit the electoral process," added government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.

Two months ago, he had promised to “address the Congolese soon on relevant issues linked to the survival of DR Congo.”

The former head of state had withdrawn from public and political life since his split with Tshisekedi at the end of 2020. He lives on his remote farm at Kingakati in Kinshasa or on his other farm Kashamata in Lubumbashi, south of the country. The alliance he seemed to envisage after his reconciliation with Moïse Katumbi no longer seems to be on the agenda.

Breaking silence

When Kabila, 52, decided to break his silence in mid-June, he insisted on “the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) and the Constitutional Court”, which responsible for settling electoral disputes, among other things.

The reshuffling of the Constitutional Court was one of the causes of the break-up of the coalition between Kabila and Tshisekedi.

Kabila called on his political family to “resist”.

He also reiterated “the urgent need to stabilise the security situation throughout the country, to enable every Congolese to vote freely and with dignity.”

No one knows whether Kabila aims to vie for the presidency again in an attempt to return to power. The law has not clearly barred him.

“To all my Congolese compatriots who think and believe that I have left politics because, since December 2020, I have not held a meeting with my political family the FCC, nor spoken as a former President; this is false. I have only one passion: the DRC, my country,” said Joseph Kabila in June.