The latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the failure of the leaders elected in 2006 to radically change governance and to fulfil the democratic aspirations of their citizens. Nearly four years after Joseph Kabila won the presidency in elections hailed as a milestone in the peace process, power is being centralised at the presidential office, checks and balances barely exist, and civil liberties are regularly undermined, despite growing signs that the regime is unable to manage local conflicts. The Congo’s partners must place democratisation and institutional reform at the centre of their dia logue with Kabila’s government.
“During the transition following the civil war, the former rivals formally agreed on a common vision for a democratic Congo that would bring lasting peace and development”, says Guillaume Lacaille, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst. “Under Kabila’s watch, the purpose of this consensus is being forgotten. Unless the Congolese authorities put democracy on the agenda, they risk losing the gains already made toward long-term stability and wasting the international investment in the country’s future”.
The democratic constitution adopted by referendum in 2005 called for fundamental institutional reforms, decentralisation and the implementation of checks and balances. In 2006, the Congolese were finally able to choose their leaders through credible elections. Kabila won a five-year term by campaigning to rebuild the country and to further democratisation, notably by implementing the constitution, respecting the rule of law and rapidly holding local elections. These promises have not been kept.
Instead the president’s office has curtailed the powers of the government, parliament and the judiciary, taking advantage of the weakness of the opposition and the corruption prevailing among the elite. Preparations for local elections face major hurdles despite strong international support. The presidency has increased intimidation of dissenters, showing a clear authoritarian trend. Meanwhile, the international community has remained mostly silent.
Kabila is now contemplating amending the constitution. Invoking sovereignty, he has called for the UN Mission (MONUC) to withdraw by summer 2011 and has announced that the Congolese government will take charge of organising the presidential elections scheduled for late 2011.
“Reversing current trends will require international donors to stop seeing state building as merely a technical process”, says Thierry Vircoulon, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director. “They must test Kabila’s political will to follow up on his promises and link their development aid to real progress in democratic transformation”.
For more information: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6614&l=1
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