After two presidential terms, Kabila is supposed to step down following November 2016 elections; yet, the former guerrilla shows little sign of planning to do so. On 11 May the constitutional court decided Kabila is allowed to retain power until a successor is installed. This clears the road for a de facto extension of his rule beyond legal term limits. Consequently, the government will continue its manoeuvres to delay elections as long as possible. As a reaction, tens of thousands of opposition and civil society members protested in Kinshasa and other urban centres (Lubumbashi and Goma) on 26 May, resulting in clashes between stone-throwing demonstrators and police using tear gas.
Impact on country risk
Besides protests being put down by force, hundreds of people – opposition politicians, activists and journalists – have been arrested across the country. Kabila is likely to pull out all the stops to hold on to power. Resources are being diverted away from the election commission, causing a lack of funding to organise the vote. Another scenario for election suspension might be Kabila pursuing a declaration of ‘state of emergency’. Furthermore, the wildly popular and leading opposition candidate Moïse Katumbi has recently been accused of hiring mercenaries. After an attempted arrest at his residence, Katumbi left the country and is currently said to be in the UK. By all means, an undemocratic mandate extension will significantly raise the risk for political destabilisation. Knowing Kabila’s powerbase seriously weakened, chances for staying in power seem poorer compared to recent examples set by his peers in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Congo Brazzaville. Rioting is therefore very likely to increase over the coming months, raising the risk for fatalities of protesters and urban disruptions. In a scenario of increased use of violence, international (budget) donor aid is likely to be cut. What’s more, low commodity prices have been squeezing government revenues and payment delays to public contractors and of public wages are growing (including soldier wages). Consequently, mutinies and coup attempts could become more likely during protests.
Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, email@example.com