FILE PHOTO: Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa
FILE PHOTO: Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa

Joseph Kabila will not stand for re-election in December

By By Amedee Mwarabu Time of article published Aug 8, 2018

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KINSHASA - Congo's President Joseph Kabila

will not stand in the election scheduled for December, a

spokesman said, finally agreeing to obey a two-term limit but

picking a hard-core loyalist under European Union sanctions to

stand instead.

The announcement on Wednesday by spokesman Lambert Mende

that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would

represent Kabila's ruling coalition in the Dec. 23 vote came

just hours before the deadline to register candidates.

"We are all going to align behind (him)," Mende said.

Kabila was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his

constitutional mandate, but the election to replace him was

repeatedly delayed. That sparked protests in which the security

forces killed dozens of people, and stoked militia violence in

Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east.

Kabila had come under strong pressure from regional allies

such as Angola as well as the United States and EU to stand

down.

The selection of Ramazani, 57, is, however, a defiant move.

He is under EU sanctions for alleged human rights abuses,

including deadly crackdowns by security forces on protesters.

Kabila's choice of a die-hard loyalist suggests that the

president, who came to power after his father's assassination in

2001, intends to remain closely involved in national politics.

A Ramazani victory could lead to a continuation of Kabila's

policies, including a tough line on the mining sector, where

foreign investors hope the government will walk back steep tax

hikes approved earlier this year.

Congo is Africa's top producer of copper and the world's

leading miner of cobalt, which is prized for its use in

batteries for electric cars and other electronics.

KABILA PULLS THE STRINGS?

Kabila will remain at the head of his People's Party for

Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and has installed loyalists

across the federal bureaucracy, including in the courts and in

the military.

But the announcement that he will not run again will ease

fears in the region and beyond that a Kabila candidacy would

drag the country back into the civil wars of the turn of the

century in which millions died, mostly from hunger and disease.

"What matters for the moment is that the constitution,

whether willingly or not, has been respected," said Senator

Jacques Ndjoli of the opposition MLC party of former vice

president and presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba.

"Despite the multiple attempts to circumvent the

constitution, President Kabila finally understood that the

supreme law applies to everyone."

The election should now herald Congo's first democratic

transition of power following decades marked by authoritarian

rule, coups and deadly conflict.

Ramazani, a former governor of the eastern province of

Maniema, served as interior minister from late 2016 until this

February, when he was named permanent secretary of the PPRD.

He is a combative defender of Kabila and oversaw repeated

crackdowns on protesters and pro-democracy groups as interior

minister, especially in the aftermath of Kabila's refusal to

quit power when his mandate expired in December 2016.

In May last year, the EU slapped a travel ban and asset

freeze on him for his involvement in "planning, directing or

committing acts that constitute serious human rights

violations".

Several opposition candidates, including Bemba and the

president of Congo's largest opposition party, Felix Tshisekedi,

have also registered to run.

They fear the goodwill Kabila could earn from not seeking a

new term could make it easier for his coalition to cheat and are

concerned about voter rolls they say are faulty and electronic

voting machines due to be used for the first time.

His supporters dismiss these concerns.

"Today, Kabila has shown that he is the father of democracy

in Congo," Patrick Nkanga, a PPRD official, told Reuters by

telephone.

A nationwide opinion poll last month showed opposition

candidates collecting a significant majority of the vote with

potential candidates from the ruling coalition trailing far

behind.

Ramazani did not receive enough votes to be included in the

poll's results.

Reuters

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