Deadly protests broke out in Kinshasa and other major cities against an amendment of the electoral law passed by the government on 17 January, requiring the conduct of a census before the next legislative and presidential elections can be held. A census across the vast country would lead to the postponement of elections until 2018 or 2019, and Kabila would not have to officially seek a third term. After the protests, the senate suggested amendments on the most controversial clauses, but changes have to be reconciled by a final vote. Either way, the amendment of the electoral law shows that the government is likely to support President Joseph Kabila’s unconstitutional endeavour to stay in power beyond the 2016 elections. By contrast, the Catholic Church and Kabila’s former ally Moise Katumbi - the wildly popular governor of Katanga – support the opposition in their disapproval of a third term for Kabila.

Impact on country risk

DRC is the second least-developed country in the world, despite vast resources and potential that should have made it Africa’s economic powerhouse. Kabila’s credibility and legitimacy has been seriously damaged since the irregular 2011 elections and by corruption, military incapacity and large-scale state dysfunctioning. Moves against Kabila’s efforts to stay in power are likely to unleash large political tensions that might not be restrained peacefully. The loss of a powerful ally in Katanga could seriously jeopardise Kabila’s political future; especially as Moise Katumbi has the ability to run for president himself (which had him removed as provincial head by the ruling PPRD). The election timetable is unclear and the outlook holds a serious risk for further opposition protests that might lead to a real power struggle or even a revival of Katanga’s desires for secession. Internal dissent against Kabila is growing, which could also cause destabilisation risks if Kabila finds a way to stay in power beyond his constitutional term limits.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com