The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the richest countries in Africa, if not in the world, when it comes to natural resources. DRC is a classic case of a rich country that is being run poorly because of self-aggrandizement, greed, corruption, conflict and inefficiency. The recent political crisis in the country only works to aggravate the saddening situation that prevails in the country.
Last year, the term of incumbent Joseph Kabila came to an end, and it was expected democracy (it is an irony when one takes into account the name of the country) would take precedence and that he would call for elections. Typical of some African leaders who cling on to power, Kabila remained unflinching and resorted to the sit-tight syndrome, triggering a deadly political crisis that remains unresolved. The Church (The Catholic) has been a key figure in trying to knock some sense into Joseph Kabila, but it remains futile. Elections seem to become a remote possibility under the prevailing conditions and the political crisis is exacerbating, far from coming to a halt.
Months of protests, some deadly, have become a hallmark and unpleasant feature of the political crisis in the country. In order to ease the unrest, the country's influential bishops called on Kabila, urging him not to seek a third term. Roman Catholic bishops last year helped broker a deal under which elections for a new president would be held in 2017. Despite 2017 being the year, several factors have been interwoven to create a devastating interplay that is delaying the process, hence making the elections become a distant reality for the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo who are desperately yearning for change. The country's commission blames mainly logistical problems for the delay of the elections.
Under international pressure, the mineral-rich but chronically poor and politically unstable country has now scheduled the vote for December 23 2018. The hope is that they will not face difficulties again which will make them further push the elections, for such a likelihood is very high. The uncertainty dominating the political atmosphere is very debilitating, with the economy continually plummeting and inflation soaring. The bishops, after holding an extraordinary meeting on DRC's crisis, called on Kabila "to reassure public opinion" that he will not be a candidate "to his own succession," they said in statement.
Kabila's prolonged and unwanted stay in power has culminated in street protests, which have been countered numerously in bloody crackdowns by the state which does not tolerate dissent. In power since 2001, Kabila's second elected mandate ended in December 2016, according to the constitution, which bars presidents from seeking a third term. However, he is allowed to remain in office until a successor is elected, according to a court ruling. The electoral commission declared that organising a vote in the vast central African country was not possible before March 2019, before the DRC foreign partners upped the pressure and a timetable was issued.
The bishops also called on the government to publish a funding plan for the poll and to ease constraints concerning political prisoners and exiles. The authorities made arrests ahead of an opposition march on November 15, sparking concern from the United States, Switzerland and Canada about limits on the freedom of expression. The police have been extremely repressive. Just before planned protests against Joseph Kabila, they made widespread arrests. The Lucha citizens' movement said at least 27 were detained by police in North Kivu province in the country's east, including 15 in the provincial capital Goma. In the neighbouring province of South Kivu, Lucha denounced "the arrest of 13 activists" who were detained while a communique was being read out.
Two decades ago DRC collapsed into the deadliest conflict in modern African history. Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragged in at least six African armies and left more than three million dead. The east of the country remains a battleground for rival ethnic militias. Kabila took office after his father Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated in 2001 at the height of the Second Congo War. He was confirmed as leader in 2006 during the first free elections since independence, and re-elected for a second term in 2011 in a vote marred by accusations of fraud.
Opposition groups have called for more protests against Joseph Kabila on November 28. They are considering it a "peaceful demonstration."