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21 September 2017 14:02 (South Africa)
Africa

Op-Ed: SADC is a problem, not a solution to the DRC crisis

  • Claude Kabemba
    Claude Kabemba

    Dr Claude Kabemba heads up OSISA’s Natural Resources Governance Initiative and is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). He has previously led research and policy divisions at DBSA and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, and has consulted for organisations such as Oxfam, UNHCR, Norwegian People’s Aid and the AU. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political Economy) from Wits University.  

  • Africa
Photo: President Jacob Zuma holding a tête-à-tête with President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the Democratic Republic of Congo during his official visit to South Africa on 25 June 2017 to attend the 10th session of the South Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo Bi-National Commission (BNC). (GCIS)

The SADC summit held in South Africa failed to make a correct assessment of the alarming situation that is prevailing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC government is again unable to organise the elections in December 2017, and SADC agrees with President Joseph Kabila even when it is clear that the crisis of electoral democracy is a deliberate and malicious attempt by him to preserve power as long as possible. The question is, is SADC simply incompetent or an accomplice in President Kabila’s shenanigans? By CLAUDE KABEMBA.

The crisis is over the failure by President Joseph Kabila to organise the third democratic elections in which he is prohibited to stand by the Constitution. The constitution of the DRC is clear on the organisation of elections. They take place every five years. The government is responsible for ensuring that elections are organised in a fair manner and on time. Elections were supposed to take place in December 2016. President Kabila failed to organise this. After protected negotiation led by the Catholic Church, the parties agreed, including President Kabila, that elections will be organised in December 2017, meaning President Kabila was allowed to stay in power a year longer than the Constitution allows. Now we are back to square zero.

President Kabila respected the Constitution in 2011 when he organised elections in which he was a candidate. The conditions under which the 2011 elections were organised do not differ much from the current socio-economic and political situation in the country. The only difference between the two is that President Kabila is not a candidate in these elections. This is the source of the problem. He has consumed his two terms allowed by the Constitution.  What SADC fails, deliberately so, to do is to condemn President Kabila and his government – even before it can look into mechanism to salvage the situation – as being primarily responsible for the failure to organise elections in line with the Constitution. After 16 years of being at the helm of government, President Kabila must accept the blame for failing to organise elections, which are supposed to reinforce peace and stability.

SADC’s position is perpetuating unnecessary ambiguities and contradictions on the rule of law and the future of the DRC. SADC cannot provide moral support to a regime that has shown little respect to its own Constitution. SADC’s tacit support, especially South Africa’s support, to President Kabila is pushing him to choose the path of stonewalling and suppression inside the DRC.  The result is disregard for human rights, transparency and accountability, and good governance. The Independent Electoral Commission is captured by the regime. President Kabila has no legitimacy left in the eyes of Congolese. He is ruling increasingly through coercion, via its special forces and intelligence services. Economic hardship is forcing people to speak out and attempt to rise against the regime. President Kabila is resisting change by ordering troops to violently disperse peaceful demonstrators. Many people have already died since December 2016. How many more would SADC allow die?    

It is difficult to understand how the SADC Heads of state, supported by their advisers, are failing to come to the right assessment and take the right decision on the DRC.  President Kabila has opted for a strategy of maintaining chaos in the country to create conditions not conducive for elections. He continues to delay the electoral process using reasons ranging from instability, lack finances and logistics.

Although he agreed to hold elections in December 2017, he has not allowed a smooth implementation of the agreement. In an attempt to weaken the opposition, using corrupt means, he is co-opting and dividing them at will.

SADC heads of state should not forget that the future of the DRC depends on Congolese themselves and not on a decision they take. What Congolese are simply asking is to be accompanied in a process that respects the country’s constitution and supports the consolidation of democracy. The DRC has developed a civil society and public opinion that are clear about what Congolese need. Despite the fact that key opposition figures have been pushed out of the country and others are in prisons, Congolese have not been passive. They are mobilising across all the major cities of the country to push the regime to accept to organise the elections. If nothing is done to remedy the prevailing situation of chaos, tensions will continue to rise as the December deadline approaches.

SADC’s emerging assumption of “Kabila or Chaos” cannot hold and is misleading. With the type of decision taken at the Summit, SADC is quickly becoming an added problem to the crisis than a solution. DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma holding a tête-à-tête with President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the Democratic Republic of Congo during his official visit to South Africa on 25 June 2017 to attend the 10th session of the South Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo Bi-National Commission (BNC). (GCIS)

  • Claude Kabemba
    Claude Kabemba

    Dr Claude Kabemba heads up OSISA’s Natural Resources Governance Initiative and is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). He has previously led research and policy divisions at DBSA and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, and has consulted for organisations such as Oxfam, UNHCR, Norwegian People’s Aid and the AU. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political Economy) from Wits University.  

  • Africa

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