Protests against delayed elections and President Kabila’s continuation in office beyond his December 2016 term limit are ongoing in all major urban areas (including Goma, Bukavu, Uvira, and Kisangani) except for Lubumbashi where heavy deployment of security forces deterred protesters so far. During violent demonstrations and a security crackdown in Kinshasa on 19 and 20 September, at least 44 people were killed. At least three opposition offices were burned, probably by members of the Republican Guard (RG). Opposition groups call for daily protests while supporters of Kabila are expected to hold marches and rallies in Kinshasa as well. The United States, EU and UN called for all sides to end political violence. The US also imposed sanctions on two senior security officials for using excessive force and lethal weapons during the demonstrations.

Impact on country risk

The size of recent demonstrations indicates the strength of anti-Kabila sentiment and widespread frustrations over insecurity, lack of services and socioeconomic hardship. Most opposition and civil society groups boycotted the ‘national dialogue’ negotiations that cleared the road for Kabila to cling on to power. Yet the opposition is fractured and seems to be united only by their opposition to Kabila. Moreover, the influence of popular presidential candidate Moïse Katumbi was undermined since he had to flee the country after being charged for treason and fraud. The army is internally divided but delays in military and police salary payments, caused by troubled state finances following the decline in mining revenues, could increase the risk of mutinies or a coup against Kabila. Still, opposition leaders are too divided for the time being to provide a sustainable alternative. In the event that Kabila’s ‘caretaker government’ manages to stay on, security will probably deteriorate, especially in Kinshasa. By all means, ongoing unrest is in the cards although a number of different scenarios could unfold over the coming three months. A lot will depend on possible statements made by the Catholic Church leadership to support the protests and on the number of defections by government members to the opposition. The international community on the other hand might introduce more sanctions as diplomatic leverage to prevent the country from further descending towards widespread disorder.

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