Promised elections in December 2016 have obviously come up as empty promises by President Joseph Kabila of Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been engulfed in intense political turmoil with the current president refusing to step down or hold elections. Last year, D.R. Congo’s oppositional party leader Éttiene Tshisekedi, among other party leaders, brokered a deal with President Kabila to hold elections in December. Not only were elections skipped all together, but Mr. Tshisekedi also died in early February this year. His death spurred inter-party divisions that allowed President Kabila to take advantage of the political uncertainty.
As part of the December agreement between President Kabila and the opposition coalition, a member of the opposition leadership would be chosen by the coalition to serve as Prime Minister. However, amid the divisions and debates on who would succeed Mr. Tshisekedi, President Kabila went ahead and appointed a Prime Minister himself. Kabila appointed Bruno Tshibala, an ex-leader of the opposition party, as his new Prime Minister. This move came soon after Tshibala was ousted from the party following a clash with Éttiene Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, who is the chosen successor.
President Kabila’s move to put Tshibala in power was seen by the opposition coalition and the international community as contrary to the “spirit and letter of the agreement.” This is a classic example of the savvy political maneuvering Kabila and other similar leaders of DR Congo are capable of accomplishing. Kabila’s administration has praised his appointment of Tshibala as an essential step toward political cooperation and fair elections, despite the seemingly clear mal-intent.
The oppositional party must continue to push their agenda for free and fair elections and more transparency from the national government. They have called for peaceful protests to be organized by the people in response to Kabila’s maneuvers. Hopefully with another round of negotiations and peaceful protests real change can be realized.
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