19 August 2017

Congo-Kinshasa: Congo's Civil Society Look to Force Kabila Out

Photo: Sonia Rolley/RFI
Demonstrations in Kinshasa (file photo).

Representatives of Congo's civil society launched a manifesto on Friday calling for a democratic transition and for President Joseph Kabila to step down. Kabila has repeatedly refused to commit to a timeline for stepping down.

Members from Congo's grassroots organizations and religious institutions chose the International Federation of Human Rights headquarters in Paris to launch their manifesto on Friday.

The notes of the national anthem 'Congo rise up' were belted out by the crowd waving the national flag's blue, yellow and red.

"Whether it's the government or the opposition, everyone has now realized that the country is in a bad shape," André Mbata Mangu, Director for the Institute of Democracy and Governance, told RFI.

"Just like it says in our national anthem, we must rise up, hold our heads up high and build a country that's even more beautiful than before. A country of peace."

That peace, civil society groups maintain, is being threatened by President Joseph Kabila.

"Despite Kabila's second term being extended, in virtue of last year's agreement, he's done nothing but trample all over the terms of that Accord," activist Léonie Kandolo read out in the ten-point manifesto.

"He's defied the Congolese people and refused to respect the Constitution."

Under an accord struck on December 31 between Kabila's representatives and opposition leaders, Kabila, in power since 2001, agreed to hold elections by the end of this year.

Election U-turn

But in July, the National Electoral Commission made a U-turn and said the vote won't take place this year after all, because of delays in registering millions of voters.

Militia violence has also intensified across Congo notably in Kasai province complicating the organization of the presidential elections.

More than 3,000 have reportedly died since last October, including two UN experts.

"This is a chaos strategy being used by the Kabila regime to stay in power," Floribert Anzuluni, coordinator of the citizen movement Filimbi told RFI.

"You know this situation started in Beni in the eastern part of Congo, then we saw Kananga in the Kasai provinces, now in Kinshasa. It's actually Mr Kabila who is organizing this instability."

Economic woes

Political instability is also fueling Congo's economic pain.

Inflation now stands at 50 percent and the Congolese franc has lost 30 percent of tis value, forcing the government to seek the help of Western donors and the IMF to keep its copper reliant economy afloat.

"Even if the Electoral Commission decides not to hold elections this year in the DRC, there will still be a door for a new round of negotiations, but this time around among Congolese citizens only," says André Mbata Mangu.

Activist Herve Diakiese for his part insists that "Joseph Kabila can't be part of the solution, because he's the problem."

Civil society groups want article 64 of the constitution to be activated. It stipulates that Congolese citizens can depose leaders who violate the constitution.

More protests planned

"This article is clearly saying that all citizens must block any person who wants to stay in power against the constitution," says Floribert Anzuluni.

"As of today, Joseph Kabila is staying in power against the constitution and the citizens of DRC must act now to push Mr Kabila to step down by the end of this year."

Whether or not ordinary citizens will listen to this call for resistance remains to be seen.

Friday's manifesto was launched in the comfort of Paris, things might be very different when these civil society groups return home.

On Sunday, they're likely to face their first litmust test when Congolese people return to the streets of Kinshasa for more anti-government protests.

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