DRC: Will the Presidential elections take place in 2016 as planned?

DRC: Will the Presidential elections take place in 2016 as planned?

The elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to be held in November 2016, and tensions rise whereas security forces 'surrounding' presidential candidate Moise Katumbi's home

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Background

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country devastated by a seemingly unending civil war since the over through of Mobutu Sese Seko’s reign in 1996 after 32 years in power. It is the 11th largest country in the world and has huge reserves of natural resources however war, the absence of an infrastructure, commercial & colonial mining, widespread systemic corruption and political instability have to date prevented the country from benefitting from these riches.

In accordance with the constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange the incumbent President’s term in office is set to expire at the end of 2016, with suggestions being made by officials in the country that elections will be held in November. There is however no certainty of this as Kabila has yet to make a statement confirming that he intends to step down at the end of his two term mandate, in fact accusations have been made that he is going to attempt to either change the constitution, or deliberately ignore it in order to serve a third term in office. This is a behavior that is currently both alarming and very common amongst African leaders in recent years.

Moise Katumbi Chapwe

Prior to formally declaring his intention to run for President, Moise Katumbi Chapwe was the governor of the Katanga Province from 2007 to 2015. In 2015 Jeune Afrique named him “African of the Year” and many people believe he is the second most influential and powerful man in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after Joseph Kabila.

Moise is not only a politician, he is also a successful businessman, founding “Mining Company Katanga” (MCK) in 1997, a company that by 2015 was one of the leading mining companies in the country, employing over 1900 people. MCK was sold to Necotrans, a French company, in November 2015.

Moise is known by many around the DRC for his involvement in football where he has spent a significant amount of money, including an investment of $35 million to build a stadium in 2011 and launching a football academy in 2012, currently attended by over 2,000 young men.

Achievements

During his time as governor, Katumbi was credited with not only targeting corruption but also encouraging foreign investments, improving the infrastructure in the province, banning the exportation of raw minerals, offering free land and tax breaks to farmers, increasing access to clean water and dramatically improving school attendance numbers.

During his reign copper production in the Katanga Province increased from 8,000 metric tons to more than 1 million tons in just over 8 years, and the amount of food grown locally more than tripled, reducing the reliance on imported food by 68%. The number of girls being educated also tripled and the overall number of children going to school increased from 400,000 to over 3 million in the same period of time.

Political stance

Moise Katumbi Chapwe has previously been a major supporter of Joseph Kabila, working on both his presidential campaigns and in 2003 being asked by President Kabila to help resolve the issues in the mining sector in Katanga.

In 2015 however Katumbi started to distance himself from Kabila, publically stating that he believed Kabila must step down in 2016 in line with the country’s constitution. In January 2016 he joined a coalition whose primary concern is to ensure the constitution is protected and that the Presidential elections take place in 2016 as planned.

Mercenary charges

On the 5th May 2016 it was reported that members of the intelligence agency and the police force had surrounded Katumbi’s Lubumbashi residence. Katumbi tweeted, “Since this morning, police forces are surrounding my house. To arrest me. This is Kabila’s response to my presidential bid,” “No matter what occurs, I maintain my bid (for president) and remain firm in my peaceful struggle for the rule of law. Democracy will win.” It is a ‘grotesque lie” he said.

It is alleged that Katumbi has a number of South African and American mercenaries working for him in Katanga. These allegations have been strenuously denied by Katumbi who has said he would never wage war in order to secure power and that the four men arrested are his bodyguards, employed by Katumbi after the protection unit supplied by the government was take off him in 2015.

“I have nothing to fear because I have no mercenaries with me at the house, nor have I recruited any. It’s just rumors … Investigators said they were going to come to my house to search and arrest me. Let them come,” Katumbi said. “I maintain my candidacy (for the presidency) and will stay true to my peaceful struggle for the state and the law,” he told Reuters.
Katumbi has written to the UN mission requesting protection as he believes that he is in danger, “my security is not guaranteed” he said. In a statement the U.S Embassy stressed that they are deeply concerned by the accusations being made and that they believed them to be false.

On the 8th May 2016, the national prosecutor general, acting on the orders of the Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba issued a summons, ordering Katumbi to appear in court on Monday 9th May 2016 to face the allegations made against him.

The prosecutor general was not available for comment however Katumbi continues to deny the allegations stating that he believes it is an attempt by the government to smear his name and therefore prevent him from challenging the Presidency of Joseph Kabila Kabange.

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