On 5 November, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) announced that the delayed elections – originally planned for late 2016 – would take place on 23 December 2018. This announcement dealt a final blow to the shaky 31 December 2016 agreement between the ruling Presidential Majority party and the opposition Rally coalition, which committed them to holding elections in 2017. Opposition leaders have denounced the new date, claiming this will give President Kabila another year to remove the presidential term limits and cling on to power, just like his neighbouring presidents in Rwanda and the Republic of the Congo. International pressure on Kabila was increased (targeted sanctions), yet, ironically, deteriorating relations with donors are further slowing the prospects for credible elections as there is a shortfall in funding and technical support for organising simultaneous elections in this vast and highly unstable country.  

Impact on country risk

Disorganisation and Kabila’s strategy of nurturing splits within the opposition have degraded the Rally’s ability to mobilise mass popular support, despite widespread anger against Kabila. Consequently, renewed large violent protests against the delayed elections are not likely to be opposition-led but rather spontaneous civil demonstrations, making them difficult to control. Moreover, the political crisis is fuelling violence and conflicts in the east and in the centre of the country. In fact the Kasai provinces have been wracked by violence since clashes with militias and security forces escalated in August 2016. More than 3,000 people were killed and around 3 million people are now at risk of starvation as a result of the violence. Kabila’s delaying strategy is further destabilising the country, inflicting great harm on the economy, and this will continue for at least another year. Today, foreign exchange reserves are already practically depleted, the Congolese franc has collapsed and inflation is expected to reach 50% by the end of the year. Henceforth, the outlook is gloomy and a peaceful solution seems increasingly further away.

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