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Posted on Friday, 18 October 2013 16:18

DRC: Kabila after Kabila, encore?

Kabila became president after his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated before being elected in 2006 and 2011. Photo©ReutersThe rumours and rumblings over Joseph Kabila's succession planning are reaching fever pitch, with many expecting the president to change the constitution.

The year 2016, when the second and last term of President Joseph Kabila expires, is still far away.

Within the Congolese political class there are many who already think that Kabila will do everything to stay in power.

It started with rumours and people trying to guess his intentions. What followed this year were a series of confirmations and denials.

At the centre of the debate is the potential revision of Article 220 of the constitution, which limits a president to two successive terms.

Those in power have been deliberately vague about the situation.

Certain supporters of Kabila, who became president after his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated before being elected in 2006 and 2011, say that he will leave at the end of this term in 2016.

At the same time, others close to Kabila – such as parliamentarian Evariste Boshab, who is secretary general of Kabila's Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie – are sending different signals.

In June, Boshab published a massive book of 400 pages entitled Entre la Révision de la Constitution et l'Inanition de la Nation ('Between Constitutional Revision and the Starvation of the Nation').

His thesis is clear: if the fundamental law is not revised to allow Kabila to remain in power, the country risks tumbling into chaos. But will Kabila be tempted to do so?

Whatever his choice, the talk about constitutional amendments is already leading to vigorous opposition.

The critical voices are from opposition political parties and civil society, where the Catholic church is known for its uncompromising position against the regime.

The church had already denounced a 2011 change to the constitution wherein the presidential election was reduced from two rounds to one.

The presidential camp initiated and supported that measure, saying that it would make elections less expensive. Despite protests, the law was approved.

The opposition had few choices other than to move on and to participate in the polls. For now, public opinion is hostile to any manipulation of the constitution.

Some argue that it would be risky for Kabila to take such a step.

They see him completing his term in 2016 at the age of 45 and taking a place on the sidelines as a life senator, as the constitution foresees.

Kabila's friends and allies are divided about his future.

Some say that the most important thing for him, if he decides to step down, is not to be 'bothered' by his potential successor.

He would want to avoid legal proceedings and to be able to live in peace.

Others have their own preoccupations: their own futures and protecting their interests, which they see as tied to the president remaining in power.

For this reason they are ready to fiddle with the constitution despite all of the risks that such a move could have for the country.

As we know, power is addictive, and the suspense is set to last for the next three years. ●

The author, Tshitenge Lubabu M. K., has worked at The Africa Report's sister magazine Jeune Afrique since 2006. He covers Central Africa, culture and the Great Lakes region.



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