Courts and technocrats in Congo?
Over the last few weeks, Congo’s embattled political arena has seen a gradual shift of issues outside the playgrounds of pre-electoral competition and into the – in parts more shadowy – world of legal and technocratic procedures. On May 11, the Constitutional Court of the DRC expressed its verdict over the question whether or not President Joseph Kabila will stay in power beyond December 19 this year. Simultaneously, a lawsuit was brought forward against opposition frontrunner Moise Katumbi and his alleged involvement into ‘mercenary recruitment’, leading eventually to the ex-governor’s departure to South Africa – for ‘medical reasons’. In the meantime, another opposition politician, Martin Fayulu, had his hotel sealed by the tax officers. In return, opposition parties have now been reported to sew Kabila for ‘treason’ in case he retains presidency beyond the constitutionally prescribed date.
Outside court ruling and legal procedures, diverging opinions also increasingly hide behind ‘reports’, some of them getting leaked while others are merely speculated about (…whether they all exist, sometimes). French media station RFI cites an internal UN paper, in which specialist argue that presidential elections could still be held on time but notes that CENI – the DRC’s national electoral commission rejects this point of view. Earlier reports had been produced by the OIF and numerous background papers jump from desk to desk between major Western embassies in Kinshasa. Accordingly, and depending on the respective position in these pre-electoral times, analysis is cited insofar as it fits into the punchlines.
Remarkably though, it is not necessarily what we see and hear that counts, but perhaps rather what we don’t. Neither the opposition, nor the government appear to overtly seek additional confrontation in an open field. Donors – with the exception of the US’s and the UK’s rather blunt public musings on sanctioning particular politico-military figures – also shy away from any bold moves. Most of the crude swaggering in rhetorical terms takes part at the sidelines of the main political scene. All the while, the shuttle diplomacy is on in a mix of self-reassuring scans on potential allies and back-rowing on all-t00-sensitive issues.
With less and less probability that elections will take place anytime this year, it seems that neither those against nor those in favour of what meanwhile everyone calls ‘glissement’ want to risk playing out their remaining aces too early – perhaps with the sole exception of presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi, who is (besides a couple of rather obscure diaspora candidates who maintain all-english twitter handles) the only one who declared his bid, and – given the ongoing mercenary lawsuit – took out his second trump by leaving the country. On whose behalf this ace was played out though, is a question that remains unanswered for now. Never a dull moment…