Will divided DRC opposition be able to fight Kabila candidate in upcoming election?

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By Mel Frykberg

Johannesburg - The US Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) closed its doors on Monday for the day saying it had received “credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against US government facilities” in the capital, Kinshasa.

This was the latest development in a country where political tensions were running high as campaigning, which began last Thursday, continued in the run up to the 23 December presidential election to replace incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

Repeated delays to the election over the past two years sparked street protests in which security forces killed dozens of demonstrators and worsened militia violence across the country.

The country faces numerous problems ahead of the elections but one of the biggest questions is whether a divided opposition will be able to put up a successful fight against Kabila’s ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD). 

The opposition is in a shambles after a recent disagreement over who will be their joint candidate for the December poll.

A decision by Felix Tshisekedi, the head of the largest opposition party in the DRC, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP), to pull out of an agreement to field a joint candidate in next month’s crucial presidential elections, could diminish the opposition’s chances of challenging Kabila.

Tshisekedi’s sudden decision flew in the face of a pact he recently signed with other opposition figures who chose Martin Fayulu as their single contender after three days of negotiations in the Swiss capital, Geneva.

“With opposition parties in the DRC failing to back a candidate to face off against President Joseph Kabila’s designated successor, the political trajectory will probably be one of continuity and not change,” wrote political analyst, and Independent Media’s foreign editor, Shannon Ebrahim in her Friday article ‘Realpolitik of the Democratic Republic of Congo’.

Kabila is backing hardline Interior Minister and loyalist Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and the decks are stacked in his favour, Ebrahim said.

The opposition’s woes have been exacerbated by other issues. It has not had the same access to the media as the government, opposition rallies have been blocked while Shadary’s rallies are proceeding unencumbered. Additionally, popular opposition leaders have been prevented from running in the election.

“Jean-Pierre Bemba, who came second in the 2006 elections, was blocked by the government from returning to the DRC in August, and the popular Moise Katumbi was barred from entering the DRC at the border when he tried to return home in August,” Ebrahim said.

Complaints have also been raised about possible fraud, the ability of unregistered voters to cast their ballot and the validity of 10 million people registered to vote.

“But despite the complaints of opposition parties about the dwindling political space, it was believed that if the opposition was able to unite, it would stand a chance of unseating Kabila’s ruling party.

But, once again, egos have got in the way of uniting the DRC’s fractured opposition,” Ebrahim said.

With 36 political parties and little political will to form a united front against the ruling party, it becomes difficult to effect real change.

In addition to the divided opposition and possible voting irregularities looming ahead, the country’s security forces are battling violent militias and insurgencies. This includes the Islamist United Democratic Front (UDF), originally from Uganda but now based in the DRC, which is further destabilising the country.

Attacks on aid workers by these groups are also exacerbating the fight against Ebola which is continuing to spread, thereby further complicating the situation ahead of the election. - Nampa/ANA

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