The trouble with DR Congo’s elections

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Joseph Kabila, son of long time rebel, former AFDL leader and president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Laurent-Désiré Kabila, took over the presidency after the assassination of his father in 2001. He was elected as president in 2006. In 2011, he was elected for a second term.

Kabila’s second term expired on November 2016 per the adopted 2006 constitution, but the government has conjured repeated excuses for the continuous postponement of the elections.

Kabila’s government recently revealed that the 2017 elections will need to be delayed because it is too expensive.

Budget Minister Pierre Kangudia said the cost of organising elections, which was said to be $1.8 billion was too expensive. “It will be difficult to think that we can mobilize $1.8 billion this year. At this stage, I prefer to keep a language of sincerity,” he said.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said last November that it needed until July 2017 to register more than 30 million voters in the country, which may be a difficult timeframe given the country’s poor road infrastructure and communication networks.

Last year, the government and the opposition agreed that the presidential elections would be held towards the end of 2017.

With this new development, his opponents have accused him of cleverly delaying the polls to remain in power. The initial plan to hold elections in 2017 reduced tensions between the government and opposition.

Joseph Kabila, barred from seeking a third term constitutionally has repeatedly postponed elections, thereby extending his term. Protests against the incessant postponement of elections led to 50 deaths in September.

The government moved against freedom of speech and information sharing by shutting down the internet during the protests against Kabila’s continuous hold on power. Citizens had to rely on Virtual Private Network (VPN) to communicate.

The DRC has not had a great track record with elections. The country has never had a peaceful transfer of power since its independence in 1960. There is a lot at stake if the government continues to postpone the citizens right to exercise their franchise peacefully.

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