In a fog of tear gas, a priest in the Congolese capital drags a woman to safety after she was shot. In the churchyard. By the police. About a thousand miles away in the Ituri region, on the other side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people fleeing a massacre climb out of boats and wade ashore, their homes burned to the ground, their dead unburied. And 700 miles from there, in the Kasai region, the United Nations discovers 80 mass graves, then blames government soldiers for most of the deaths. It is easy to see these recent scenes as unrelated incidents in the panoramic chaos of a vast and troubled nation spinning out of control. But there is another theory: The events are part of a plan.
Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch director for Central Africa, said senior security and intelligence officials in Congo told the organization about a scheme being carried out by President Joseph Kabila’s powerful supporters in the government and security sector to derail elections scheduled for December and keep him in power: Sow violence across the country in a “strategy of chaos.”
Kabila, who inherited the presidency from his father in 2001 and won an election in 2006, was supposed to leave office in 2016 when his second and final term expired. He refused. Then he was supposed to step down in 2017 under a deal negotiated by mediators from the Catholic Church. Now 46, he and his government have used every ploy to keep him in power.