By Chris Zumani Zimba
According to the REUTERS on 8th August, 2018, Democratic of Congo’s ruling party named its presidential candidate for the December 2018 elections. It’s not Joseph Kabila but Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former Interior Minister and governor of the Maniema Province. Although President Kabila has not yet commented on the matter, Shadary’s nomination was confirmed by Information Minister, Lambert Mende. But very few people can understand what is happening, why and how about the DR Congo December 2018 poll. Yes, former United States ambassador, Herman Cohen could be right that ‘the opposition in DRC can defeat Kabila’s chosen successor and win the upcoming polls provided the process is free and fair’. But so far, President Kabila has skillfully managed to authoritatively schemed and politically staged a national leadership selection in the next national vote than facilitating the anticipated constitutional democratic election to take place. Here is why and how from our interpretation and perspective:
Kabila managed to block DR Congo’s ‘most preferred presidential candidate’, Moses Katumbi from both entering the country either by road or air and consequently meeting the 8th August, 2018 deadline of filing his candidature. Ask yourself, if Katumbi was truly wanted to serve a jail sentence in Congo for unlawful real estate transactions, why then was he brutally blocked by the government from entering his home country and file his presidential candidature? Katumbi, a millionaire businessman and former governor of the country’s copper-producing Katanga region is a big political threat to Kabila today. According to AFRICA NEWS of 31/07/2018, the first 2018 nationwide survey conducted by Congo Research Group, BERCI in February showed that Katumbi was the favourite presidential candidate with 24%, Tshisekedi with 13%, Bemba with 10% and President Kabila himself with 6%. In the latest July 2018 opinion poll conducted by the Congo Research Group at New York University, Katumbi was still leading with 19% while Kabila was lowest with 9%. As such, Kabila ensured that Katumbi is excluded from participating in the December polls in order to increase the chances of winning by his preferred candidate and loyalist-Shadary.
The second political threat to Kabila’s succession plan is the former vice president and militia leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba whose rating in the July latest opinion poll increased to 17%. While Bemba was allowed into Congo and filed his candidature after his war crimes convictions at The Hague were quashed, it is believed that Kabila may still use the constitutional court at some stage to rule on his eligibility. And realizing that Kabila has proven to be scared of the opposition and is doing everything legally amiss to ensure that only his personal loyalist succeeded him, it is increasingly becoming clear that political stability may not be guaranteed either in the pre and post-election period in the DR Congo. The major political problem is Kabila; he is directly using his presidential powers and state institutions to singlehandedly determine who contests or does not contest and may do the same to determine who wins and loses in the December 2018 national polls.
Lastly, despite his presidential mandate ending in December 2016, Kabila refused to quit power by claiming that the government was not yet prepared to hold the election to succeed him while state security forces killed dozens of protesters across the country in the name of maintaining law and order. After cleverly paving the way for his loyalist, Shadary to succeed him, Kabila, in power since 2001 now seem ready to step down as president as the constitution bar him from a third term. As long as he was not sure about his own successor as well as safe exit, Kabila was not willing to step down all these years despite constant calls from the US or EU to do so. Overtly, it is empirical to conclude that DR Congo has been staged for a national presidential selection instead of a democratic election.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant