President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila has agreed to step down when elections are held later this year. This is according to the information minister Lambert Mende in an interview with the Voice of America channel.
According to the minister, Kabila will, however, name a successor in July this year. He is barred from contesting for another term under the constitution.
His final term expired in late 2016 but an earlier court ruling said he could stay in charge till when elections are next held. The Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) says the inability to organize polls was based on the lack of an updated register and insecurity in parts of the country.
People on social media have reacted to Kabila’s promise to step down. There are those that doubt if the 47-year-old will leave especially given that he did not directly commit to go.
Others are concerned more about why he has taken it upon himself to openly elect a successor. For others, Kabila is only buying time till he pulls his next stunt.
A former United States Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State, Herman J. Cohen said he trusted Kabila to keep his word.
“In view of DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende’s statement in Washington January 31, I am now persuaded that there will be an election in December 2018, and that Kabila will not be candidate. Now vital that opposition unite around single candidate,” Cohen said in a tweet.
Below are some reactions to the latest development
Fake news!— Wa Bwana (@JPetitn) February 5, 2018
Chap is buying time! ?— Joseph Owino (@JosephOwino) February 5, 2018
Not huge at all. Kabila has said no such thing. In an interview with local Congolese media, the Minister of Communications reversed himself in less than 24 hours. A RFI journalist asked Kabila directly about this and here is Kabila's answer: https://t.co/tbEyvt0Yzf— Crisis In The Congo (CongoCrisis) February 5, 2018
Please don t force the dream in a sunny night ! We are no longer dreamers— john01 (@johnkalm01) February 2, 2018
Will only believe it when it happens, an African letting go of presidency at such a young age?— Marv Muzvarwandoga (@marvymarv29) February 5, 2018
Don't be duped, Mende is a guy who never tells the truth.— Nzaji Wa Milengu (@eldorado197506) February 2, 2018
The cynic in me says it's merely more stalling tactics.— Jeffrey Smith (@Smith_JeffreyT) February 5, 2018
What arrogance! It is not up to him to name the successor.— George Makubalo (@GeorgeMakubalo) February 5, 2018
Believe him at your own risk— moses muputisi (@mosesmuputisi) February 5, 2018
Why does he have to pick his successor? So he will pick who will win elections by fraud? #Congo— OpGabon (@OpGabon) February 6, 2018
Joseph Kabila came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila. He has since won the last two elections organised in the resource – rich country, first in 2006 before his reelection for a final term in 2011. He was expected to step down in 2016 but failed to do so with the reason that the prevailing conditions were not suitable for an election.
The international community has pressed for elections to be held and for Kabila to step down.
A series of opposition protests have been clamped down by the police. The most recent being a peaceful march by the Catholic Church. Police fired tear gas as protesters holding green leaves and arrested a number of priests and portesters.
Congo is Africa’s largest copper producer but ranks very low on the U.N. Human Development Index. Congo has not experienced a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960. Dozens were killed last month in demonstrations in the capital, Kinshasa.
Kabila’s two main opponents are Felix Tshisekedi who leads the main opposition party – taking over the reigns from his late father Etienne Tshisekedi who died whiles seeking medical attention in Belgium in 2017.
The other opponent is a former ally and governor of the country’s Katanga Province Moise Katumbi. The owner of TP Mazembe football club is also in self-imposed exiled after a number of corruption charges were thrown at him. He promised to return in December 2017 but failed to do so.