Kabila In Talks To Determine Successor In DRC’s Election

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, holds a press conference for the first time in five years in Kinshasa.  Thomas NICOLON / AFP

 

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila scheduled talks on Tuesday with allies to discuss hand-picking a candidate to run in upcoming elections on the eve of a key campaign deadline, sources said.

Members of a pro-Kabila alliance known as the Common Front for Congo (FCC) “have been called to an important meeting this evening at Kingakati,” a minister told AFP, referring to the presidential residence on the outskirts of Kinshasa.

Another source, close to Kabila, said, “It’s not a secret anymore — it’s about naming a candidate for our presidential platform.”

Names in the rumour mill include former prime minister Augustin Matata Ponyo; Kabila’s chief of staff, Nehemie Mwilanya Wilondja; and the president of the National Assembly, Aubin Minaku.

Candidates have until 1530 GMT Wednesday to file their bid for the December 23 poll — a twice-delayed ballot seen as crucial for the future of the notoriously unstable country.

Kabila, in power since 2001, should have stepped down at the end of 2016 when his constitutional two-term limit expired.

He has invoked a constitutional clause enabling him to stay on as caretaker.

But he has left everyone guessing whether he will seek to run again, perhaps by arguing that this is permissible because of a revision of the constitution in 2006.

The uncertainty has ratcheted up political tensions, leading to anti-Kabila protests that have been bloodily repressed.

 Volatile 

A country of some 80 million people, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960.

Kabila, 47, took over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated by a bodyguard.

His tenure over the vast mineral-rich country has been marked by a reputation for corruption, inequality and unrest. The watchdog Transparency International ranked it 156 out of 176 countries in its 2016 corruption index.

Many provinces are in the grip of armed conflict and millions have had to flee their homes, many flocking to Uganda, Tanzania, Angola and Zambia.

The United States is ready to impose further sanctions to dissuade Kabila from continuing his hold on power, the Financial Times reported Monday.

“The US is trying to convince Kabila to go between now and August 8,” an unnamed source told the newspaper. “They’re trying to squeeze his family and his finances”.

Candidates 

Candidates who have already filed their bid include Jean-Pierre Bemba, 55, a former warlord and Kabila rival, who returned to Kinshasa last week after being acquitted of war crimes convictions by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Felix Tshisekedi, 55, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), would file his application Tuesday, his spokesman Peter Kazadi told AFP.

Another candidate, who declared his hand on Tuesday is Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba — once a spokesman to former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and twice a minister under Kabila.

Kin-Kiey — a vocal Kabila supporter — is running as an independent, local media said.

He told AFP he was running “in the name of my party,” called the Action Party.

The authorities last week barred Moise Katumbi, 53, a wealthy businessman and former governor of the province of Katanga, from returning home to file his bid.

Katumbi has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since May 2016 after falling out with Kabila.

The pro-Kabila FCC is an election platform combining two groups, the Presidential Majority and the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).

After Wednesday’s deadline, the definitive list of candidates will be announced on September 19.

AFP

Kabila’s Opponents Lead Presidential Race In Congo

 

Two opponents of Congolese President Joseph Kabila jointly lead a race to replace him in an election due in December, according to a public opinion poll released on Tuesday.

Millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi, a former governor of the country’s copper-producing region who says he will return from a two-year exile on Friday, would receive 19 per cent of the vote, as would Felix Tshisekedi, who leads Congo’s largest opposition party, the poll showed.

The poll, conducted by the Congo Research Group at New York University and Congolese polling firm BERCI, also shows that 62 per cent of people have no trust in the electoral commission to conduct a free and fair election, due to be held on Dec. 23.

Kabila is barred by term limits from standing for a fresh term in the election but has yet to publicly commit to stepping down. Some of his allies are pushing a legal argument they say allows him to run again.

The deadline to declare candidacies is Aug. 8. The United States and France, as well as other countries including neighbour Angola, have expressed fears that a Kabila candidacy could plunge the Democratic Republic of Congo into chaos.

Dozens of people have been killed by security forces in the past two years during protests against repeated election delays and memories remain fresh of catastrophic civil wars around the turn of the century in which millions died.

Former vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba would receive 17 percent of the vote in the election, the poll showed. He plans to return to Congo on Wednesday after his war crimes convictions at The Hague were quashed in May.

Katumbi and Bemba, however, could be barred from contesting the election due to criminal convictions for real estate fraud and witness tampering, respectively.

The constitutional court, to which Kabila this month appointed two loyalists, would rule on their eligibility once they have submitted their candidacies.

Kabila would receive 9 per cent of votes in the election, the poll showed. He and other possible candidates from his ruling coalition would together receive about 19 per cent.

The last nationwide survey conducted by Congo Research Group and BERCI in February showed Katumbi with 24 per cent, Tshisekedi with 13 per cent, Bemba with 10 per cent and Kabila with 6 per cent.

US Pressures Kabila To Step Aside In DRC Votes

DRC President, Joseph Kabila

 

With only five months to go before elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States on Thursday urged President Joseph Kabila to quickly declare that he will not seek re-election.

The vote is to take place two years later than originally scheduled, and after dozens have died in protests against Kabila who has been in power since 2001.

Addressing the UN Security Council, US Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said “the time for posturing is over” and that Kabila must now make clear his intentions for the December 23 vote.

“We expect President Kabila to abide by the DRC constitution and the December 2016 agreement. He is not eligible under Congolese law to seek a third term,” Cohen said.

France and Britain have previously also called for him to clearly state that he will step aside and not run in the election.

Kabila had been expected to announce whether he planned to run in an address to parliament last week, but he kept the world guessing about his intentions.

On that same day, the Security Council issued a joint statement with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to call for a “peaceful and democratic transfer of power” following the December vote.

The DRC has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Candidates for the presidency must declare their bids by August 8.

The United States renewed criticism of DR Congo’s plan to use electronic voting in the polls, saying the voting machines could undermine the credibility of the elections.

The election commission “must take steps to ensure voters can cast their votes via a mechanism that is tested, trusted, and guarantees secrecy of the vote -– namely paper ballots,” said Cohen.

The elections have come under intense scrutiny at the Security Council, which is planning to pay a visit to DR Congo later this year, possibly in October.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had planned to travel to Kinshasa along with African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki this month but that visit was postponed, at Kabila’s request.

Congolese Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita urged world powers to support elections in his country “through positive actions” and complained of “interference from all sides”.

There are fears that the vast mineral-rich country could slide into all-out violence as it heads towards the elections.

AFP

Congo’s Kabila Appoints Army Chief Amid U.S., EU Sanctions

 

 

Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has appointed a new Army Chief who is under international sanctions for the violent repression of dissent, raising fears of an imminent crackdown.

State television reported on Sunday that Kabila had appointed General John Numbi to the role of inspector general of the Congolese Armed Forces. Numbi has been placed under sanctions by the United States, European Union and Switzerland for alleged killings of scores of civilians by forces controlled by him over several years.

His promotion was part of a reshuffle in which also saw General Gabriel Amisi, himself under sanctions for abuses and for selling weapons to rebel groups responsible for massacring civilians, was promoted to army deputy chief of staff.

Kabila Residence Burned Down In DR Congo

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila               Photo: Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

A residence of President Joseph Kabila was burned down early Monday in a suspected militia attack that killed a police officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, witnesses said.

So-called Mai-Mai armed groups were probably trying to steal goods from the building in Musienene, North Kivu province in the country’s troubled east, according to a military official.

“The residence of the head of state in Musienene has been targeted in an attack from 03:00 (01:00 GMT) and then burned by the Mai-Mai,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The attackers ransacked everything before setting the house and some vehicles on fire.”

Kabila spends most of his time in the capital, Kinshasa, but is believed to have several homes across the country, including a farm.

Musienene regularly sees protests against Kabila’s extended time in power and demonstrations over insecurity.

He has managed to cling to power despite his second and final term as president officially ending in December 2016.

Elections to replace him never took place and a deal was eventually brokered that enabled Kabila to stay in office until a vote that was due to be held in 2017. The poll has since been postponed until December 23, 2018.

“We saw the flames consume the residence of the president of the republic when we awoke,” said Pascal Mukondi, a resident of Musienene.

Another resident said they “feared retaliation” from the army.

Armed Congolese groups and foreign forces control swathes of territory in North Kivu province and fighting is relatively common.

In a separate development, nine soldiers were killed in two ambushes by a suspected rebel militia group in South Kivu province, the military said Monday.

“The army recorded a loss of nine soldiers in two ambushes in the Baraka operational zone”, an unnamed military official told AFP.

A lieutenant was killed on Sunday in the village Lweba, seven kilometres (four miles) from the Baraka district, the official added.

The other deaths came in an attack two days earlier.

“Our hospital received the bodies of eight soldiers killed by bullets on Friday,” an official at a hospital in Lulimba, a village 60 kilometres south of Baraka, told AFP.

The military official accused the Mai-Mai militia of being responsible for both attacks, adding that DR Congo’s army lost “important material”.

AFP

Congo’s Main Opposition Rejects Kabila’s New Government

Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition party denounced president Joseph Kabila’s newly appointed government under prime minister Bruno Tshibala, which they say undermines a previous agreement.

Kabila, in power since 2001, struck a deal in December with Congo’s main opposition bloc to stay on after his mandate expired provided he held elections by the end of 2017.

But talks to implement the deal broke down in March when Kabila refused to commit to the bloc’s choice of prime minister.

This is the second nomination of a prime minister. The opposition also rejected the appointment of Congo opposition figure Samy Badibanga, who was named in November last year under a power-sharing deal. The opposition called the nomination a “provocation” at the time.

In the capital Kinshasa, many residents say they are skeptical that the new government will change the current political impasse.

“This so-called government is a bad idea. As you know, Kabila does not want to leave power. All these are tactics that are going on around the announcement of

Tshibala’s (current prime minister) government or a Badibanga (former prime minister) government. All these are distractions that they are using to stay in power. There is nothing new,” said one resident Theo Tshamala.

“I don’t know how a new government will handle the two biggest problems in just eight months, namely organising the elections and also tackling the challenges that the people are facing,” added another Kinshasa resident, Jean Claude Mputu.

Despite resistance to Kabila remaining in power, he has successfully co-opted large portions of the opposition.

The new prime minister, Tshibala, named last month, is a former member of the country’s largest opposition party and other opposition leaders received ministerial posts too.

Ruling majority spokesperson Alain Atundu Liongo dismissed the critics, saying that the new government is ready to work with the opposition.

“The ruling majority is invested in the success of this government, especially regarding two major objectives. We need to finish with the process of organising elections as agreed. We also need to ensure that the Congolese people live in the best social conditions as well as security for their own wellbeing. We also need to pursue at

“We also need to ensure that the Congolese people live in the best social conditions as well as security for their own wellbeing. We also need to pursue at national level, policies that will improve the country’s economy,” Liongo added.

The roughly 60 ministers and vice-ministers that were named are mainly holdovers from the previous government and key ministries – including foreign affairs, interior, justice and mines – remain in the hands of Kabila loyalists.

Political tensions are high after security forces killed dozens during protests over election delays last year. Worsening militia violence in recent months has also raised fears of a backslide toward the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.

Kabila’s opponents suspect he intends to repeatedly delay elections until he can organise a referendum to let himself stand for a third term, as his counterparts in neighbouring Congo Republic and Rwanda have done.

Kabila denies those accusations, saying the election delays are due to challenges registering millions of voters and budgetary constraints.

“The accord legitimised our institutions, but that’s no longer the case today. All that is happening at the moment is just a distraction, and when the time comes there will be consequences, I can promise you that. As someone who is responsible for UDPS, I can tell you that Kabila is responsible for all of

“As someone who is responsible for UDPS, I can tell you that Kabila is responsible of all of this, because he is behind this. Do not think that other people are behind this, it’s all Kabila,” said the opposition UDPS spokesperson, Augustin Kabuya.

The new government faces a number of stern tests. Congo’s franc currency has lost half its value since last year and authorities are struggling to mobilise the resources needed to hold the election by the end of the year.

It will also enter office amid controversy over the burial of long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in Belgium in February.

His political party, the UDPS, had planned to bury him on Friday (May 12) at its headquarters in the capital, Kinshasa, but the provincial government has rejected the planned site.

“The governor needs to have the courage to tell you the truth. His hands are tied; he cannot make this decision himself. He’s only just a figure in this whole thing.

We spoke to the governor. If he was serious in his proposal, why didn’t he condemn his political family when he gave his go ahead to UDPS, while his political family gave another view? Why did he change his mind? He had to find a way to cover up, that’s all we can say right now. Everything that the governor is saying right is just imagined scenarios to please his political family,” said Kabuya.

President of the UDPS’s Brussels wing, Katumba Tchiowa Ngoy told Reuters the party would delay repatriating the body and that it would be brought back in “12 to 15 days.”

Reuters

Nine Killed As Congo Troops Clash With Ex-Militia Fighters – NGO

congo troopsAt least nine people died in clashes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that erupted when government soldiers prevented former fighters from leaving a camp for demobilised militia groups, officials said on Thursday.

The camp houses ex-fighters from the Rwandan-backed M23, which participated in rebellions against the government of President Joseph Kabila in 2012 and 2013, and the Mai Mai militia, whose allegiance fluctuated during the conflicts, a U.N. official said.

The President of the Bill Clinton Foundation for Peace, a human rights NGO in Kinshasa, Emmanuel Cole, said six ex-militia fighters and three soldiers died in Wednesday’s clashes.

Congo’s east has been plagued by instability and conflict for two decades. The region suffered the worst of the fighting during a war between 1996 and 2003 that sucked in half a dozen African countries and left millions of people dead.

World powers fear a repeat of that violence as Congo approaches a contentious election period with Kabila, in power since 2001, accused of seeking to delay the poll or change the constitution to extend his mandate for another term. Kabila has not commented.

One of the former militiamen, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 10 of them were killed and that a demonstration they held to demand to be allowed to go home was peaceful.

Government spokesman, Lambert Mende, acknowledged that the two groups had clashed but denied that soldiers had killed anyone. He said protesters killed one camp officer with a machete.

The incident also underscored existing tensions in a number of camps for former militia fighters across Congo, which rights groups criticize for inhumane conditions.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in 2014 that more than 100 people died from starvation and disease at one camp in northwest Congo owing to inadequate food and medicine.