Opposition groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for a nationwide strike Tuesday, hoping to force President Joseph Kabila to hold elections and step down when his second term expires at the end of this year. This came after the opposition coalition over the weekend refused to attend a dialogue with President Kabila, sponsored by the African Union and facilitated by former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo. Martin Fayulu, leader of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party and a member of the opposition coalition, said Kodjo is biased in favor of President Kabila.
Voter registration for Congo’s November presidential election will not be completed until next year, the electoral commission president said Saturday, suggesting that the vote should be delayed. Independent National Electoral Commission President Corneille Nangaa said a voter register cannot be ready until at least July 2017 because of logistical problems in registering more than 30 million voters, and because of a lack of funds. The electoral commission started the registration process in Congo’s northwest on July 31. The opposition has expressed concern that President Joseph Kabila would delay the Nov. 27 elections in order to remain in power beyond his mandate, which ends in December.
Candidates from the ruling party in the Democratic Republic of Congo were elected on Saturday as governors and deputy governors in 14 of the nation’s 21 newly drawn provinces. The ruling coalition, known as the Presidential Majority, won in all but five of the new provinces, said the Independent National Electoral Commission, or CENI, in a statement e-mailed from the capital, Kinshasa. The vote in Sud Ubangui province was delayed and in Nord Ubangui province extended to a second round runoff, CENI said. The indirect ballot, in which governors and deputy governors are elected by provincial assemblies, was due to be held in October but was delayed. The vote is part of a series of about a dozen elections originally scheduled to take place between October 2015 and November 2016, culminating in a planned vote for a new president.
President Joseph Kabila has sworn in new chiefs of the electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo a year ahead of planned polls, state television reported Tuesday. Corneille Nangaa, Norbert Basengezi and Pierrette Mwenze were respectively made president, vice-president and quaestor — or treasury officer — of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), according to a decree. The appointments follow successive resignations of previous top CENI officials at a time of political upheaval, since opponents of Kabila, in power since 1991, believe he is seeking a means to stand for office again despite a constitutional ban.
The ruling coalition of the Democratic Republic of Congo said a series of elections set to take place over the next year should be delayed by at least six months to allow the country to hold a national census. “The political class should have the courage to support the organization of a national census, if necessary” Andre-Alain Atundu Liongo, spokesman for the Presidential Majority, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa. “If this means a delay of six months, eight months or more, the political class needs to be prepared.”
Towards the end of last month, on 25 October, the voters of the Democratic Republic of Congo went to the polls and elected representatives to sit in the parliaments of each of the country’s 26 provinces. That Sunday two weeks ago was the firing of a starting pistol which has launched a mammoth exercise in democracy during which, over 13 months and six different dates, the Congolese people and their new provincial legislators will take part in 12 separate elections, some direct (provincial and national deputies), others indirect (governors and national senators). Having filled thousands of elected positions from town councillors to provincial governors, the culmination of this herculean process will take place on 27 November 2016 when, returning to the polling booth, the Congolese will choose their 500 national parliamentarians and a new president.
The head of Democratic Republic of Congo’s elections commission has resigned, the presidency said in a surprise announcement on Saturday, adding to uncertainty over a presidential poll due to be held next year. President Joseph Kabila has ruled the vast Central African nation for 14 years but is barred by the constitution from standing for another term. However, critics and the opposition claim he is seeking to manipulate a packed elections calendar to prolong his rule. “The President of the Republic informs national and international opinion of the resignation of Father Apollinaire Malumalu … for health reasons,” the head of Kabila’s press office Jacques Mukaleng Makal announced on state-run television. He gave no further details of the decision.
The riots and announcement of a coup that followed Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term highlight a rising trend in Africa of public protests against leaders who try to prolong their stay in office. “People believe if they take to the streets they will be heard,” Yolande Bouka, a researcher on conflict prevention at the Johannesburg-based Institute for Security Studies, said by phone. African leaders “are now wary of using force to stifle dissent, as there is an international community watching.” Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, activists have mobilized against incumbents, as in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, where protests in January prompted President Joseph Kabila to withdraw an electoral bill that would have prolonged his term. In Burkina Faso, mass demonstrations forced Blaise Compaore to quit in October after 27 years in power.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s election commission has set Nov. 27, 2016, for presidential and legislative elections, an election official said on Thursday, satisfying a key demand of the political opposition and international donors. President Joseph Kabila, who has held power since his father’s assassination in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011, is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term. But critics say he intends to cling to power beyond the end of his mandate next year. Kabila has refused to comment on his future, saying it is a distraction from his political agenda. A government spokesman has said that the president intends to respect the constitution.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Senate will vote Thursday on an amended electoral law that may not require a new census before presidential elections are held, potentially resolving a debate that triggered deadly protests. “In principle we’ll have a law that will clarify this problem and we hope this will calm public opinion,” Senator Emery Kalamba said by phone from the capital, Kinshasa. A parliamentary commission is currently amending the law, he said. Demonstrations against the law continued for a fourth day, spreading to the eastern city of Goma where at least one man died, Thomas D’Aquin Muiti, president of Civil Society in North Kivu province, said by phone. Police and soldiers were deployed throughout Kinshasa, where more than 40 people have died in protests since Jan. 19, according to human-rights groups.