After President Kabila was elected to office, the Democratic Republic of the Congo changed its constitution in 2006 to limit its presidents to two terms. This meant that an election should have been held in November 2016.
Instead, the government instituted a “national dialogue” in October, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties. The dialogue resulted in an opposition member being appointed prime minister by President Kabila.
In response to these events, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) introduced resolutions, urging that a democratic transition of power take place in 2016 and laying the groundwork for imposing targeted sanctions if this did not take place. The resolutions passed Congress with an overwhelming majority.
President Kabila’s second term technically ended on December 19, but he continues as president until the next election, now scheduled for 2018. At the time of this review, the government has failed to hold an election, bringing about mass protests in the streets. About 40 people have been killed, and many activists have been arrested.
In June our office hosted Patrick Maxwell, who worked with MCC in eastern Congo. He shared insights on strategies for a sustainable democratic government in eastern Congo, as well as the need for U.S. funding for election logistics. One of the organizations that MCC supports, Church of Christ in Congo, provides electoral education for citizens and election monitoring in eastern Congo. —Charles Kwuelum