Dialogue Politics – Kinshasa is set for a long electoral cycle

‘There will not be any elections before 2018 or 2019’, a taxi driver told me in Kinshasa, the very same day the OIF released a sobering audit on the state of the voter registry. The report has a lavish laundry list of things to do to establish an up-to-date and credible ‘fichier’ (doublettes, deceased, first voters etc.), but also outlines how this can be achieved.

In the meantime, however, political reality has overtaken the theoretical and technical debates. Preceded by well-targeted public statements of majority stalwarts, a(nother) grand dialogue has been announced to trigger an all-party debate over contentious issues including registry, calendar, finances (which is what most of the opposition primarily/exclusively wants) but also the constitution, a transition period and questions related to découpage (what basically the majority wants to be part and parcel of the dialogue).

So far it is not yet clear which parties will engage in this dialogue: it seems certain that all majority parties and moderate opposition parties will adhere and that Katumbi and Kamerhe won’t – but question marks for the G7 (as there is now an actual G7 and sort of a mirror-G7 composed of the respective loyalists that remain in the majority) and other parties including MLC (already split) and UDPS (under increasing centrifugal pressure). Etienne Tshisekedi is fancied as the celebrity returnee to the country. The exact date, composition, and organisation of the dialogue remain subject to further planning at this point. But, what we know so far is:

  • The CENI calendar is already massively delayed, with the non-event of provincial elections on 25th October being the clearest indication. However, after a long limbo, Corneille Nangaa and Norbert Kantintima have been officially appointed to head the electoral body.
  • Reforming the ‘fichier éléctoral’ will cost a lot of energy and money, and almost surely cause further delays. However, not doing so will inevitably curtail the legitimacy of any election.
  • Mbongo eza té… and projections on decreasing state revenue – in particular with the closure of the two Glencore mines in former Katanga – may further aggravate the lack of funds to pay for the polls.

Interestingly, there seems to be an implicit consensus among diplomats and Congolese stakeholders of all sides that this delay can not be made up anymore, rather it will effectively turn into some sort of a transition. While more radical opposition figures contest this scenario, they seem to have given up on realising the current calendar – some uniquely focusing on national elections and others maintaining their rejection of any dialogue to at least protest publicly against what they perceive as a constitutional coup. The international community, a diplomat mentioned off record, ‘may simply end up accepting even a long transition or a change of constitution if violence remains at low levels and a minimum of respect is shown for the procedure’. For many majority stakeholders, the plot is clear: Time has run out anyway, so the voter registry, potentially a census, and connected administrative necessities (such as turning the new provinces from de jure into de facto entities) now come into the focus. Whether the actual willingness or the political rhetoric prevails on these issues will be seen. However, while any major administrative operation will further delay the electoral cycle it is as clear that certain of those – if carried out efficiently and thoroughly – would benefit the democratic process in the long run.

In the coming weeks, as most stakeholders will at some point gather for this new dialogue – apparently under the auspices of Special Envoy Djinnit – the key questions will be how long a ‘transition’ could last and whether or not it would result in an electoral cycle such as planned earlier on, or – more radically – in a significant change of the constitution. The most unknown factors perhaps, is the Congolese people. Events in January have shown that in Kinshasa and elsewhere, citizens are to a good extent fed up, but will they be able and willing to engage in widely coordinated resistance? What if this resistance turns violent? The government, after all, does not appear in a deliberate mood for all too heavy-handed repression as many still remain the early 1990s pillages in Kinshasa. But it may well use its security forces to state examples. Will the East revolt? With at least 70 distinct armed groups in the Kivus, the potential for mobilisation is there and the first implicit signs of alliance-building can be observed. In addition, quid in Katanga?

While it is a fait accompli that DRC has departed from the initial schedule, the questions now turn much more towards how an alternative will be negotiated, what timespan we are talking about, and what consequences this will have for politics, security, and society.



3 Responses to “Dialogue Politics – Kinshasa is set for a long electoral cycle”
  1. AfroMum says:

    We’re still waiting to know whether Kabila will run for president again. We saw what happened back in January, if they tried to change the constitution like they seem to then things will be pretty ugly next year

  2. kappelzink says:

    Danke. Es bleibt also alles in Bewegung damit es bleiben kann wie es ist.

    Von meinem iPad gesendet


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