DR Congo: Kabila – Opposition Deal and Challenges Ahead

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila has signed a deal with the opposition parties, which will hopefully, end his 15-year rule of the country. According to the deal, the president will remain in power until the end of 2017 when the elections must be held. President Kabila will be barred from contesting in the election.

Constitutionally, President Joseph Kabila`s term expired in December 2016, and the constitution bars him from a third term in the office. Likewise, elections would have been held in November 2016. However, the president refused to give up power, claiming that he could not organise elections till 2018 due to logistical and financial challenges. He wanted to stay in power until 2018, when, according to him, it would be feasible for the presidential election to be organised. Many opposition members have rejected Mr Kabila`s stand, which they see as a systematic attempt by the president to legitimatize his third term ambition, which, according to them, is unconstitutional. They fear President Kabila might try to amend the constitution to enable him to stay longer in power. The opposition followed up their rejection of President Kabila`s moves through protest and civil disobedience. Expectedly, the security forces responded with an iron fist, resulting in the death of many innocent citizens.

Under the deal, President Kabila will lead more or less, a transitional government, until elections, which must take place end of 2017. During the transitional government period, an opposition politician will be appointed as prime minister.

Since 8 December 2016, representatives of Mr. Kabila and his long-standing rival Etienne Tshisekedi have been struggling to make a breakthrough in their negotiations, mediated by Catholic Church leaders under Archbishop Marcel Utembi.

Ever since it got its independence 1960 from Belgium, none of the previous leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo had willingly given up power. The result is that the country, which is one of the richest in the world, in terms of the abundance of natural resources, has been reduced to a near anarchy, as evident in conflicts amongst various interest groups, including foreign powers both from Africa and the West. The conflicts fuelled by insatiable greed, fastidious power, naked selfishness and political ambitions, make it difficult to achieve any meaningful socio- political progress in the country. The innocent masses are at the receiving ends. With endemic unemployment, lack of social amenities and a brink future, the rich DRC is yet to crawl out of its economic cum political slumber to start a late walk towards its positive economic journey.

Although many people are applauding the recent deal between President Joseph Kabila and the opposition parties, few individuals are really optimistic, judging from the past experience.

“Today, we are happy to head up a political compromise,” said Archbishop Marcel Utembi, who heads the church body which mediated the talks.

Will President Joseph Kabila be the first leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo to hand over up power after the tenure? Are you optimistic that the new political deal in the Democratic Republic of Congo will usher in a much need new era of political commitment, accountability and economic growth in the country? Time will tell.