Congo's Kabila revises Constitution: presidential candidates now only need a plurality
Congolese President Joseph Kabila altered Congo's election laws, eliminating the run-off system and allowing the candidate with a plurality to claim the presidency.
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But opposition leader Vital Kamerhe accused the president and his cabinet of using the cost of the election as an excuse. “There is a hidden agenda,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, respect for the constitution, the national consensus, and national cohesion are paramount because we do not want to set the stage for Congo balkanization.”Skip to next paragraph
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Opposition groups in Parliament push back
Kabila’s proposed changes didn’t easily sail through Parliament either. In a plenary session at Congo’s lower house on Jan. 11, the adoption of the constitution review unfolded against a backdrop of chaos. Parliamentarians blew whistles, hurled insults, and ultimately threw punches on the Parliament floor.
In an attempt to block the passage of Kabila’s revisions, François Mwamba and other opposition members invaded the rostrum. Whistles in their mouths, they wreaked havoc and several times attempted to call out the Parliament president, Evariste Boshab, who was compelled to withdraw to his office because of the mounting hostility. Vitriolic reactions and accusations from one side to another over the Parliament microphone continued throughout the day.
Over 200 opposition members ultimately walked out of the session in protest of the day’s proceedings, calling on the Congolese people to witness the hostile takeover of the president’s power in Kinshasa. Once outside, the opposition’s parliamentary spokesperson said on behalf of the group: "The opposition judged it urgent to leave the session because the bureau has infringed the rules, the constitution, and it doesn’t respect the procedure. We filed this morning a motion of no confidence against President Evariste Boshab. The Congolese people must take note of what happening," he said. Despite the resistance, Kabila’s changes were approved.
Follow-up from Secretary Clinton?
Given its emphasis on the need for democracy and good governance, the international community has no excuse for watching passively what is looming on the horizon in Congo. This year’s elections have the potential to destabilize not only Congo but also the wider region.
There is good reason for the American administration to be focusing on the referendum in South Sudan for now. But over a year after visiting the region and victims in the east, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must follow up on her commitment, personally and on behalf of the U.S. government, to prioritize efforts to mitigate and prevent conflict.
The international community can grow weary of throwing millions of dollars towards helping the Congo, but supporting a democratic process does not need financial assistance alone. It is also diplomatic and political; what is needed is a genuine commitment resulting in an active and clear foreign policy toward the Congo.
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