The constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) could not be clearer: “The President of the Republic is elected by direct universal suffrage for a mandate of five years renewable a single time” (Article 70) and “the number and the duration of the mandates of the President … cannot be made the object of any constitutional revision” (Article 220), notes Atlantic Council analyst J. Peter Pham. Hence, the country’s current ruler, Joseph Kabila — who took power after the assassination of his father in 2001 and was subsequently proclaimed the “winner” of elections held in 2006 and 2011 — should be preparing to vacate Kinshasa’s Palais de la Nation to make way for a successor who should be installed there by Dec. 20, he writes for The Hill:
Except there seems to be no such movement. In fact, if anything, there are plenty of worrying signs that the 44-year-old Kabila fils and some of those around him may be planning quite the opposite, with potentially devastating consequences not only for Congolese democracy, but the peace and security of Central Africa as a whole.
From Human Rights Watch to numerous Congolese opposition parties and a new generation of civil society actors known as “Lucha”, Kabila is under fire for clinging to power, reports suggest:
In two serious blows, former government stalwarts known as the “G7 group” and ex-Katanga governor Moise Katumbi have left Kabila’s camp. …. Under the label Front Citoyen 2016 many [opposition leaders] co-created an umbrella architecture that teams up with various civil society actors. Some savvy politicians oscillate over the issue, calculating their own positioning in view of potential returns and results.
It is important to keep in mind that what happens in the Congo doesn’t stay in the Congo, adds Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center:
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged that “the DRC risks a political confrontation over respect for the constitution, including term limits, with potentially disastrous results for the people of the DRC and the region.” In a report last month for the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, Gérard Prunier, one of the world’s top experts on the Congo, was even more explicit in his warning: “Unless the United States, the European Union, and other world leaders take an active role, not only the Congo but also the broader African Great Lakes region will succumb to a new wave of violence. The ensuing instability will create chaos but more frighteningly opportunity for those terrorist groups that thrive off of chaos.”