Constitutional crisis: In the Congo, Kabila refuses to show himself out
December 23, 2016 12:00 AM
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila
By the Editorial Board
There will be a peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. government on Jan. 20 as Barack Obama gives up the presidency and Donald Trump is sworn in. We take such transitions every four or eight years for granted, but it is worth remembering that government seldom, if ever, changes hands peacefully in some parts of the world. That is the situation now in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Central African country whose name belies the true state of affairs.
As many as 26 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces loyal to DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has been in office since 2001. He took over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated. Joseph Kabila went on to win two terms and, under the country’s constitution, was to leave office on Monday. But he’s still there; his supporters say the strapped nation will not have the resources for an election to replace him until 2018. How convenient for Mr. Kabila; how heartbreaking for the 81 million Congolese who have seen variations on this theme for decades.
The country has not had a peaceful transfer of power since receiving independence from Belgium in 1960. Laurent-Desire Kabila took over in 1997 after overthrowing his predecessor, Mobutu Sese Seko, who had been the dictator since 1965.
Political intrigue seems to have been these leaders’ primary accomplishment. According to the CIA, the country has “a wealth of fertile soil, hydroelectric power potential and mineral resources” but “struggles with many socioeconomic problems, including high infant and maternal mortality rates, malnutrition, poor vaccination coverage, lack of access to improved water sources and sanitation, and frequent and early fertility. Ongoing conflict, mismanagement of resources and a lack of investment have resulted in food insecurity; almost 30 percent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished.”
Other African countries have had similar leadership crises. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup and has been in office for 22 years, accepted his surprise defeat in this month’s elections and conceded graciously. But now he’s balking at stepping down.
Human Rights Watch now considers the DRC a “powder keg.” An explosion only would worsen the socioeconomic conditions for the Congolese — and it would give the new U.S. president the responsibility of monitoring one more trouble spot in an already war-torn world.
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