Mathematiques Congolaises?

In 2008, Congolese writer In Koli Jean Bofane wrote a marvelous yet frightening novel on Kinshasa politics and the machinery of power in DRC. He follows protagonist Celio in his way from oscillating debroulliardeur to conspicious spin doctor involved in major media politics and spectacular coups in a pre-electoral Kinshasa that resembles to some part the end of the transition period and – in a rather visionary manner – to some part the pre-electoral phase in 2011.

Yet again half a decade later, Congolese mathematics seem to be on the rise once more. In increasing frequency, the ominous reunions in Kingakati are held among the country’s powerful circles. The electoral process is in a limbo before it even actually began and attention has shifted to myriad other events in the past weeks. Strategy or coincidence?

Institutionally and politically most important, the provincial découpage has blocked the headlines for quite a while but it remains highly unclear – despite parliament’s approval and governmental decree – how this decentralisation will move ahead. DRC’s constitution had demanded for provincial border to be redrawn but the process is highly contested and has already sparked controversy within the presidential majority, in particular in Katanga.

A little later, the scandal over the activists at Filimbi and Lucha took over. A gathering of Congolese activists with Senegalese and Burkinabé organisations was hijacked by Congolese security services and ever since, some of the Congolese activists continue to be held incomunicado. Kinshasa has clearly shown – as in preceding protest of late January – that it is currently not willing to tolerate potentially subversive activities. This includes major opposition figures: Vital Kamerhe continues to struggle with the Moleka lawsuit and other protagonists such as Jean-Claude Muyambo have felt the bras-de-fer.

The outrage over ‘Filimbigate’ was followed by the discovery of a mass grave in Maluku, a (meanwhile) suburban area of Kinshasa. Although he government has rather credibly explained the natural reasons of the tomb, this has brought some additional bad publicity for Kinshasa.

Finally, last week features another episode in the litany of Rwandan incursions on Kivutien territory. While Congolese authorities, in particular Julien Paluku and Lambert Mende report skirmishes between FARDC and RDF units, no independent confirmation on the incident seem to be available as of now.

What’s next? In fact, a lot speaks to the scenario that all these events are ‘Nebenschauplaetze’ of the key debate, which is happening very much inside the Kinshasa-Kingakati power circle. Reports have indicated that temperature of the exchanges between various rivalling factions around Kabila is rising. Various commentators and insiders have underlined that Kabila himself is ambiguous about seeking a third mandate, and that it is primarily his entourage drumming for this option. Kabila himself appears to be ready to leave office under the condition of immunity for his family and his family’s property. Such immunity, practically, would need a loyal dauphin to take over. An increasing number of former allies does not seem to favour this option, bringing themselves into position for a feverish electoral season.

In terms of strategy, a few options are still on the table. Although the government currently failed in its plans for constitutional amendment and electoral law modification, the referendum option is still on the table (while its results would be less sure though) and ‘technical reasons’ could be invoked on various fronts: Given the current state of planning, it is unlikely the electoral calendar announced by CENI is tenable (and the opposition is conscious of that, having called for a revision). Moreover, and the Rwandan incursion may well be a test balloon for that, national security and external shocks can serve as a ‘last resort’ tactics. Another question centres around the amount of allegiance remaining among key army stakeholders. Les Mathematiques Congolaises sont en plein cours…



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