Crisis in the Congo: DRC today mirrors the French Constitution

October 4, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Alexander Joe/AFP

 

By

Brian Minga Amza

The legality of Joseph Kabila‘s Presidency after 19 December 2016 has divided the political and social sphere of society in the Democratic Republic of Congo, even after the Constitutional Court, which is regarded as the highest court of the country, ruled that “the head of state will stay in power until a new president is elected, even if the election of that President is delayed,” according to Article 70 of the Constitution.

The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo approach this interpretation with an uneasy feeling that Kabila intends by any means to remain in power as his peers of Uganda, Congo-Brazaville, Chad, Burundi, etc, have proven the Constitution can be used to preserve power.

In the case of the DRC, the Constitution does not have any specific provision in response to the current crisis, which is the predictive uncertainty of elections to occur this year.

An insight into what this Constitution of the Third Republic is will help to understand the juncture in which the DRC is in now.

One needs to know that this Constitution of 18 February 2006 is a copy of the current French constitution of 1958. The French government endured on 13 May 1958 what is known as the ‘Putsch of Algier‘ by the Army, this event allowing the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to be reinstated in power by Parliament. In need of a strong executive and central command to face the ongoing crisis, he instructed, after receiving the approval of the constitution council, his close collaborator Michel Debre, known as a fervent liberal and strong defendant of monarchy, to draft a new constitution. This was to be introduced on 4 October 1958 by General de Gaulle, selling the emergence of the French Fifth Republic.

With this Consitution, de Gaulle placed himself in the midst of the crisis with a system of strong presidency. He held the executive power to run the country in consultation with a Prime Minister whom he would appoint.

Let’s laud the power given to the President in this Constitution. He is the head of the armed forces, he negotiates with foreign powers and ratifies treaties, he can organize referendums on laws or on Constitution changes, he nominates the Prime Minister, Ministers and other senior figures in the administration, and he also names three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council, including it’s president.

Meanwhile many critics have pointed out this great catastrophe which makes the French President enjoy powers unequaled in the democratic world. How perverse this is with the doctrine of the separation of powers coined by Charles-Louis de Montesquieu.

This is surprising, despite the criticism by Jean Francois Revel, a French philosopher turned journalist in his book ‘L’Absolutisme inefficace‘ of 1992 in which Revel repeatedly criticized the French Constitution, the President’s powers and the conflict between the three fundamental powers. He vigorously defended the idea of the way power is exercised rather on how it is derived.

From what we know about this French Constitution, after so many warnings, how did we fail to reject a piece of paper which is threatening everything that embodies democracy and values such as freedom, justice and equality? But even the process through which the government proposed the text to citizens for a referendum enhanced the level of immaturity of the Congolese political leaders. The citizens were never given a chance to question the text before it’s approval, nor did they show any remorse or plead for penitence for the devastating chaos for which they should be held responsible.

The current crisis in the DRC has triggered significant weaknesses of the Constitution. For instance, it does not say enough on people’s real power in the control of the institutions, on the accountability of the government and the fact that the majority of the people in the country are unacquainted with the texts of the Constitution, making it easy for politicians to twist it around for their own benefit.

Many voices within the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for an emergency need to draft a new Constitution which will limit the power of the executive and institute a well structured control of the state institutions by the people. The work of the Congolese Think Tank ‘BISO PE‘ has revealed an increasing demand among youths for the upcoming of the fourth Republic with a new Constitution.

In my opinion, President Kabila is not the cause of the current crisis, this must be found in the inefficient Constitution which makes him a monarch with all the powers in his hands. The solution would be to inverse the power balance, give more power to people and less to the leaders; this requiring that we draft a new Constitution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Minga Amza

Brian Minga Amza is a motivational speaker, Sankarist, mentor, author, political activist and is also founder and coordinator of the Florence Foundation. Having long been involved in empowering young Congoleses in rural areas, he believes that reorganising education for a substainable future in Africa is a challenge and should be given full attention.

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