By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-04-18
The US president asks Joseph Kabila to respect the Constitution and also stresses the importance of holding a credible presidential election in time.
According to a press statement from the White House, President Obama personally called his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, and “emphasized the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the DRC’s constitution.” The US president also noted that “President Kabila’s legacy as a leader who brought the DRC out of war and set it on a path of continued democratic progress would be consolidated by free and fair elections in 2016.”
Periodically, the United States has been sending messages to the Congolese President which can be distilled as: “respect the Constitution.” John Kerry hammered the warning in May 2014 in Kinshasa, and relayed it again via Russ Feingold in February: “the transfer of power must be handled democratically” in the Congo. This time Joseph Kabila was served with the message by phone in the voice of Barack Obama. US President asked his African counterpart to "respect the Constitution" of his country, where the political situation is very tense. The opposition parties fear that incumbent president Kabila will cling to his position after 2016, the end of his second and final term. A change in the basic law could allow him to seek a third term. Although this is far in the future, after the unfortunate example of Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso many doubt the Congolese leader will want to leave at the end of his term.
As noted, Obama also praised the Congolese president for extricating the DRC from war and putting the country on the path of democratic progress, which free and fair elections in 2016 would have the power to consolidate. This is a conversation and a message that resonates particularly when Nigeria has just said goodbye to Goodluck Jonathan in a democratic, transparent, and peaceful manner—clearly an example to follow.
The fact that several members of the Congolese regime refused to comment on the subject simply means that the American president’s overture was coldly received in the presidential camp, despite his party remaining dominant, and the regime still has time to prepare for the 2016 deadline. In all of this, several questions arise: could Joseph Kabila withdraw himself, and leverage the American statements to form a political block within his clan around a new candidate? Must it always be necessary to have intervention from outside for things to change in Africa?