Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were initially set to be held on the 26th of November in 2016. However, after the Congo’s current president, Joseph Kabila, made a statement last year that an election would be held in 2017, it seems that this promise will not be delivered. Despite making a guarantee of such a nature, the $1.8 billion election cost has deterred Kabila from going ahead with this electoral process. Further, Kabila’s refusal to step down from his position has caused civil unrest in the DRC, culminating in riots that resulted in the death of a dozen people. This decision is also having further implications with the DRC’s relationships with neighbouring states, such as Angola.
The president of Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission went on record as stating, “The parameters at our disposal give us, more or less, reason to think that, in December, it will probably not be possible to stick to that date.” Despite the riots that occurred in Congo in regards to Kabila’s unprecedented term in office, he used this as an opportunity to continue to stay in power. Kabila stated earlier this year that, “Confronted with these unacceptable atrocities committed against innocent victims…we can no longer defer our responsibility to re-establish state authority in this part of the country by all possible legal means.” The leader of Kabila’s opposing party, Felix Tshisekedi, took to Twitter to state that Kabila, “had declared war on the Congolese people.”
The recent discussion surrounding the DRC’s elections highlights a very significant flaw in the country’s electoral system and it is necessary to investigate the implications that these undemocratic processes are having not only on the Congo’s politics, but also its social and geopolitical stability. As the country’s citizens become increasingly disillusioned with the way that they are being represented in the political arena, civil unrest ensues and culminates in protests such as those that occurred earlier this year.
These riots have a flow-on effect in instilling a sense of fear in the public, which then results in an increased number of refugees who seek to flee the country for fear of persecution. Neighboring countries such as Angola are often left to deal with the aftermath of such a crisis and this, in turn, affects the DRC’s relations with its immediate neighbours. Cutting corners in the democratic process result in political, social, and economic unrest. Thus, it may be in the best interests of Kabila and the people of the DRC to ensure that an election goes ahead in 2017.