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DRC today: 60 years of independence and uncertainty

By Martin Mulumba
Posted on Tuesday, 30 June 2020 18:47

Congo 50 Years on
Patrice Lumumba, the Prime Minister of the Congo, signs the act of independence in Leopoldville, Congo in this June 30, 1960 file photo. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy, file)

Sixty years after its independence, DR-Congo still seems a long way from being the constitutional state that the Congolese people dreamed of in 1960.

Upon achieving independence on 30 June 1960, the Congolese people dreamed of living in a true constitutional state, with political and democratic stability, where they could build a better future.

But this hope was short-lived: a few months later, the political immaturity of the country’s leaders plunged the young state into turmoil, the consequences of which constitute the root causes of the uncertainty that continues to mark, 60 years later, the DRC. The bright spot of independence thus passed, giving way to a heap of misery for the Congolese people!

Uncertainty surrounding a true constitutional state

Democratically elected by both Houses of Parliament, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, the first President of the Republic of Congo, was violently ousted from power by a coup d’état led by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu.

President Mobutu and his wife Marie-Antoinette arrive in Kinshasa, Zaire on April 20, 1977 © CILO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

This undoing of democracy, which was preceded by Patrice Emery Lumumba’s assassination, laid the foundations of a very real uncertainty around the construction of a true constitutional state, even though the country’s various constitutional texts set forth this model as ideal.

From the single-party state of Marshal Mobutu to the armed revolution of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Congo-Kinshasa only confirmed the primacy of individuals over the law. Any idea of a constitutional state only made sense in theory. The sovereignty of the people guaranteed in constitutional texts was at times taken away, and at other times denied.

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Joseph Kabila thus succeeded his assassinated father as if he were a crown prince, despite the fact that the Congo is a republic!

Uncertainty around political and democratic stability

Multi-party elections organised in 2006, 2011 and 2018, which were supposed to give the Congolese populace the freedom to choose their leaders, were characterised by a total lack of transparency. They were a source of tension rather than peace, thereby making the leaders, in keeping with their desire, the sole source of sovereignty. And given that they were the product of poorly organised elections, Congolese institutions have suffered from a severe lack of independence in how they operate.

READ MORE Democratic Republic of Congo at a crossroads

Declared the fifth President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which verified and confirmed the election results, Felix Tshisekedi opted to build a coalition with his predecessor in order to guarantee the country’s political stability and smooth running.

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However, this coalition – built on a shaky foundation – does not equate to an alliance to support the head of state. Each of its members are pursuing diametrically opposed objectives, feeding fears and dashing the hopes that Tshisekedi’s rise to power had aroused.

Uncertainty around peace and a better future

These troubling circumstances explain why the Congolese people do not believe it is possible to build an inclusive economy any more than they believe in peace or stability.

Even though President Tshisekedi tries hard to render justice to his independence, the country will virtually have to start from scratch if the hope of a better future is to replace the uncertainty that has characterised the DRC since June 1960.

 

Martin Mulumba has a PhD in public law and is a researcher at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.

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