Friday, 16 September 2016

DR-CONGO: Kabila--The ''Authoritarian''

The Republic Democratic of Congo is at a political crossroad; the next three months are pivotal to shape the country political landscape: the continuation of this culture of absence of politics of accommodation, which could lead to ''full scale authoritarianism'', heightening political and social tensions or a smooth transition, which it seems evidently clear to me 'wishful thinking''.

Republic Democratic of Congo's political class is divided in two segments: On one hand, the incumbent President, Joseph kabila's extremists backers. Although the constitution in article 220, barres Joseph Kabila to seek a third term in office, his backers are romancing the idea of constitutional referendum, guaranteeing extra-constitutional third term to their ''Suzerain'', through different mechanisms, for instead the so called ''Inter Congolese Dialogue/ or National Inclusive Dialogue''. However, the selectiveness of this dialogue is the elephant in the room. 

On the other side, the main political opposition bloc, ''Rassemblement'', a political platform that houses several political parties, is not in the negotiating table of the ICD/National Inclusive Dialogue, as it opposes, in any form or shape, an extension of Kabila's regime beyond December 20th. This bloc portrays itself as the defender of the country's constitution that forbids Kabila seeking a third term and also as a guarantor of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2277 that encourages the DRC government to organize presidential elections within constitutional framework and the providential notions of respectability of human rights, freedom of press and freedom to political prisoners/activist.

The calamitous effects of 15 years of Joseph Kabila's regime are product of the absence of politics of accommodation and polarization that characterize the political culture in Republic Democratic of Congo. Democracy is built on the values of citizenship and the equal freedom of each and every individual. The rights and duties of each citizen entail recognition of the equal standing of every member of the political community in the democratic process. Recognition of the other is built into the fabric of democratic societies even though the clash of interests, intense political debates and febrile media shapes everyday life. 

For 15 years, Joseph Kabila has compromised the democratic process of politics of accommodation.
Democratic politics accommodates criticism, rejection and the routine removal of parties from power: it persists in the face of intense daily conflict because there is a broad commitment to the idea of fair rules that apply to each and all and that the political process is better off with these rules than without. Accommodation of difference, in one form or another, is the bedrock of democracy.

What distinguishes democracy from fascism and authoritarianism is the necessity of compromise and acceptance of accommodation as the sine qua non of politics. Accommodation can be, and most often is, only very thin. This minimum settlement upon which a society rests includes consensus on even a small range of issues, except the minimum rules of the game. Indeed, more often this settlement is the stage on which political contestation and ideological struggle play themselves out. This is nothing new. What appears different contemporary challenges facing Dr-Congo's democracy is that this foundation, the bedrock of accommodation, appears not only to be thin, but cracking.

In times of heightened economic and political tensions in Republic Democratic of Congo, as the opposition is calling for a day of protest: 19 September 2016, across the country and abroad, there is a risk that the bedrock of accommodation is challenged and weakened by government exclusionary rhetoric and intimidation tactics against the opposition.

Yet even in this fraught, political impasse in Republic Democratic of Congo, the idea of the politics of accommodation can still just about survive. Compromises can still be made, negotiations can re-start, and exclusionary rhetoric can still be stamped out. But when  Joseph Kabila's regime becomes indifferent to falsehood and deceit on seismic levels, and even offers promotion to those who champion lies, democracy becomes vulnerable and highly fragile, And when those who oppose this are ridiculed and cast aside, the politics of accommodation has begun to fracture.

That's why, the stakes are very high in Republic Democratic of Congo, where democracy is no longer played out in a confident and inclusive way but, rather, is driven by insecurity ( Beni's masacre), exclusiveness ( the absence of ''Rassemblement in the dialogue process) and fear. 

Joseph Kabila's backers and 4 members of the opposition claimed, on Wednesday, of making a breakthrough in that selected National Inclusive Dialogue, by agreeing on the sequence of series of upcoming elections, potentially removing a major obstacle to breaking a dangerous political impasse. However the devil is in the details of that agreement: There is no specific date for the next presidential election, knowingly that the incumbent president's term runs out in December 20th, leaving open the proposition of a transition period with the incumbent president beyond December 20th.

There is a looming danger to that agreement (of the 5 Kabila's backers and 4 oppositions members) that it could be rejected by the mast majority of population and the main opposition plateform ''Le Rassemblement''.  The absence of majors Congolese political heavyweight, such as Etienne Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi, could void that agreement. And there is also fear that the absence of politics of accommodation that characterize the structure of the National Inclusive Dialogue could trigger a repeat of civil wars that killed millions of people between 1996-2003.

Because of the lack of politics of accommodation, negotiation, compromise runs out, and Kabila might be tempted to look for short cuts, imposing his will. The dangers are all too obvious--a political system/regime, rigged in his favour, increasingly impervious to opposition and challenge and in the hands of those who support him to corrupt it further: a dangerous path to : Authoritarianism. 

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty Images-Photo: Joseph Kabila, the President of Republic Democratic of Congo