STATE OF DEMOCRACY IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
By Kapele Mutachi
September, 21, 2015
The problems associated with democratic reform in Democratic Republic of Congo are manifold, while the name of the country surely lends itself to an assumption of regime type. But in actuality and reality, this country has experienced great civil unrest over the last five decades, resulting in an extremely tenuous so called democracy. The issues that need to be resolved within the country are numerous, and span the spectrum from ethnic strife to a political instability and insecurity, weak institutions, declining economy and deteriorating democracy and degrading human rights. Thus, political corruption, weak rule of law, economic stagnation and violence remain prevalent in the country.
Ironically, the very Democratic Republic of Congo does not enjoy democracy for a decent decade since 2006. Congo’s democracy deficit continues to grow, and the political space is narrowed since the current government is brazenly moving to consolidate power in an apparent effort to stay in office after 2016, while the constitution strictly admits no third term. There is an urgent need for President Joseph Kabila to commit to the two term limit contained within the constitution and ready himself to leave power. With President Joseph Kabila’s second presidential term set to expire in 2016, factions of Kabila’s coalition, the Alliance of the Presidential Majority (AMP), sought to amend early this year both the constitution and election laws to allow him to seek a third term, but the move was met with local and international outcry.
protestors in Kinshasa against constitution amendments
The fragmented governing majority is running out of options to avoid the 2016 deadline. For the government, buying time by capitalizing on potential delays seems to be the highest attainable objective it can presently agree on. The disjointed opposition is incapable of forming a united front, but there is a broad agreement to oppose any political maneuvering to extend President Kabila’s rule beyond 2016.
Joseph Kabila upholding the constitution in 2006
The constitution of 2006 with amendments through 2011 was meant to heal the wounds of violent civil war, prevent the return of dictatorship, and create a stable political and economic environment so that ordinary people have a chance to better their own standard of living. It also promised Congolese people efficiency, peace, democracy, and social justice; but now it is producing economic stagnation, ongoing carnage, deterioration of democracy, degradation of human rights and social injustices. Therefore, ordinary people continue to experience decades of conflicts that shows no end insight that sooner or later people will be free and safe in their own country.
The current government is still struggling to build strong democratic institutions because of political corruption, and remove constraints to trade and investment so that it can be able to mobilize capital and technology to build a state of law, powerful and prosperous nation, founded on a real political, economic, social and cultural democracy. Yet it still does not see that it has failed its own people on many issues such as national security, democratic governance and sound economic governance, human rights and diversifying Congolese economy beyond a narrow reliance on natural resources, and most importantly creating opportunities for Congolese people to prosper.
Service delivery is the center stage of every democratic government, and when the government fails to deliver, it should be voted out of power and replaced by a new uncorrupted and disciplined government that has the capacity and ability to manipulate the system in favor of the poor and national development. Today, it is become more and more difficult for Congolese people to speak out freely because the government does not want to be held accountable. Human rights defenders, members of opposition, Journalists, and ordinary citizens are subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, and some of them are persecuted for being the voice of the people. The government uses brutal methods to silence even peaceful critics. Thus, the mood in the country is the mood of fear where people live by keeping silence.
Democracy is under threat by the same government that has vowed to abide by the principles of democracy that are enshrined in the constitution. The country can only be strengthened when the constitutional process is properly implemented and upheld by the government. But, what people are witnessing in the country is the return of dictatorship, and a gradual development of totalitarian rule, and the deterioration of democracy and degradation of human rights. Atrocities such as unlawful killings, mass rape of women and girls have become the currency of the day. Therefore, democracy and human rights in the country remain elusive.
The constitution should be there to protect the rights of individual citizens, limit the power of government, affirm the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, and establish the rules and procedures according to which the country should be governed. The current government has become very powerful, and now it tends to act in an oppressive way because the legislature, judiciary and executive are not separated according to the principle of separation of power.
In a democratic country, there are certain democratic values that should be respected by the government. For example, widespread participation by citizens and public accountability of those in power. The government should put in place mechanisms that guarantee the people of DR Congo equality, political tolerance, accountability, transparency, citizen participation, freedom of assembly, demonstration and expression, economic freedom, protection of human rights, rule of law, control of the abuse of power, and contested elections. In collective, these democratic values enable people of Congo to ensure accountability, openness and responsiveness of the government. But, people are given a democracy which does not have stable and strong institutions that are supporting the constitutional democracy.
The country is suffering from institutional failure and this has hindered the country’s development. The success of democracy depends on a set of good institutions that have a body of citizen who possess a good understanding of principles of democracy, which have high quality of leadership when stakes are high. To remedy this problem does not require a lot of resources, but it is up to the government to come up with new laws and practices, and putting measures in place that will allow people to actively participate. Unfortunately, our leaders are making laws that support their actions so that they may continue to loot and transfer state resources into their personal coffers, leaving the country bleeding dry.
The 2006 election was expected by many Congolese to be a first peaceful and democratic election in the history of the country. It was a milestone to not miss and democracy’s victory, and would call out for democracy in the region. People thought that the change of political and economic landscape would lead the country to a great prosperity. The expectation was that, the new political leadership would tackle and address the harsh socio-economic conditions of extreme poverty that people are subjected to. Since then, people have continued to witness deterioration of democracy and gross violation of human rights.
Democracy and human rights are important objectives in and of themselves. They are important enablers of human development by helping to create conditions in which people can thrive. Human development recognizes people as the real wealth of a nation. Making progress on human development benefits from the empowerment of people, and democracy and human rights are fundamentally about empowering people. If the current government had an intention to build the country, it should have started establishing strong state institutions that would support our constitutional democracy. Establishing independent bodies that will ensure accountability, transparency, openness and responsiveness. Unfortunately, the government has imposed its power in all the administrative machinery of the government and maintains a parallel network of decision making.
The problem of DR Congo is not its people, but its leaders who want to overstay in power. People have voted them into power with a hope of better life for all, but the leaders whom people trusted have turned into monsters and jeopardize the lives of millions of Congolese people for their own personal interests. It is up to us as citizens of Congo to take our destinies in our hands because the solution of our suffering is not in the hands of our politicians but it is in our hands. Future belongs to those who struggle, future is revolutionary, and our revolutionary transformation can only happen when we all embark on the journey of advocating democracy and human rights in our country.
The underlying realities in the country justify drastic change, and this can only happen when people are united to pursue a common goal and vision of creating a new society in which men and women live in peace and harmony, a society which is based on democratic values and respect of human rights. The violent civil war has left behind dilapidated infrastructures and halted the country’s development. we needs a leadership core that has the will, the moral courage and moral standing to take on the task of building up social and political forces of changing realities on the ground.
Congolese Solidarity Campaign will continue to advocate for democracy and human rights so that we can build a free and open society where social movements, civil society organizations, different political formations represent the poor and trade unions are tackling the government without fear and that the issues of the poor are given top priority by the government. We will continue to mobilize forces from all over the world to make sure that our cause of democracy and human rights are becoming a global cause. We appeal to black and white, Christian and Muslim, writer and researcher, journalists and people of all walks of life to stand together and become the voice of the voiceless.