President Kabila is seeking a third term[/caption]
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the presidential election is set for November 2016.Political opponents and activists say that everything is in place for President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power, thus violating the constitution and potentially precipitating the continent-sized central African country into chaos. “What we need is to have a specific action plan for the elections,” says Serge Syvia, a doctor and activist. “Because theirs (the government’s) is already being implemented.” In a small wooden house that was built, like much of the eastern city of Goma, on dried lava rocks, members of a youth group called Lucha (struggle for change) are holding a meeting. Lucha has a core of about 50 members and a few hundred sympathisers. They believe in using non-violent protests to demand basic rights like running water, security and justice. Currently, three of their members are in prison: one for taking part in a workshop in the capital Kinshasa on youth and democracy and two others for organising an outdoor tribute with candles and photos to victims of an armed group, based near the border with Uganda, which massacres people with machetes. The government’s spokesperson has in the past called Lucha members terrorists and Goma’s mayor has banned their activities.
Increased repressionWhy are they scared of a small, unarmed movement of young activists based over 1,500km from the capital? “For us, the lowly people, there is nothing here and they know this, so when one of us raises a finger to protest, because they are very rich in vocabulary, they call it ‘an attempt against state security’,” says another member Aline Mukovi. There is also the fact that, a year ahead of the planned election in DR Congo which should, if all goes according to the law, bring about regime change, the powerful are on edge. In January, at least 30 were killed in the country’s capital Kinshasa, according to the UN, after the police brutally repressed demonstrations against an electoral bill. For opposition politicians and activists, that bill was part of the “plan” to which Mr Syvia referred. It has become known here as the “glissement” or the slippage of the election dates.
Term limit debate flares across the region:
- Rwanda held a referendum last week which voted overwhelmingly for the country’s current leader, Paul Kagame, to stay in power, potentially until 2034.
- In October, a similar referendum has already made it legal for Denis Sassou Nguesso, in the Republic of Congo, to run again in 2016. He has been in power for a total of 31 years. Protests against the constitution change were brutally repressed.
- Uganda is also about to go to the polls in February 2016, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is running again. Term limits were scrapped by parliament in 2005.
- Burundi was just recovering from a civil conflict when president Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for another term, violating the peace agreement that ended the war. Hundreds have died since. There has been an attempted coup and a rebel movement has formed.