In 2001 a clean-shaven 30-year old shy, Chinese-trained military officer, Joseph Kabila Kabange, stepped in to take power from his father, Laurent Kabila, who had died ten days earlier from a bullet fired by a child soldier at his official residence in Kinshasa.
At that time, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy was in ruins after years of mismanagement and corruption under Laurent Kabila and before him Mobutu Sese Seko. The Congolese people were weary of high levels of unemployment and poverty.
Half of the country was under the control of rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda, and the capital Kinshasa itself was at one time under threat of an armed take-over. It took the intervention of Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe to save Kabila.
Now, fifteen years later, most of those early problems still exist in the DRC. Kabila himself has morphed from a political novice to a near dictator like his father. Extrajudicial killings, police brutality and arbitrary arrests have become distressfully commonplace in major towns and small townships across the country. Opposition offices have been attacked and burnt down.
Recently, the United States ordered its employees’ families to leave because of what it called “deteriorating security situation.” Other countries have warned their citizens to be careful.
Kabila’s constitutional term limit is supposed to end in December, but the man who has survived several attempted take-overs is not ready to leave.
Elections were to take place in a month’s time in preparation for his departure but in trying to extend his rule, Kabila is doing nothing but bobbing and weaving over the matter. He has made no preparations and does not appear to be interested in elections this year.
What Kabila has done is to call a meeting with the opposition, religious groups, and the civil society to discuss the next course of action. He has proposed that the polls be held mid-next year. Leaders across the political divide, while grudgingly agreeing to the postponement, insist Kabila must relinquish power in December.
The youthful Congolese leader, with a penchant for expensive suits made in France and Belgium, is not alone in the habit of extending terms. He sees his neighbors doing the same thing: Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Denis Sassou Nguesso all have extended their constitutional terms.
And now, Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has ruled Angola for 37 years, appears to be wavering about vacating office in 2018. A few months ago he was once again reconfirmed as chairman of his party sending signals he may stand for another term.
Kabila is still young. At 45 he has many opportunities of continuing to help his country in many other ways. By insisting to stay on, he is not only embarrassing himself and his country but endangering his life, and more importantly, the lives of his innocent citizens. A country that is mired in violence does not qualify to be a nation.
To save the DRC from further devastation, Kabila must go.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.