Congo, one of Africa’s largest but most fractious countries, saw its opposition parties agree in November to a single candidate for the December 23 presidential election, the relatively unknown politician Martin Fayulu. In keeping with Congo’s confused polity, this unity of purpose lasted just a few hours. The country will now face a three-way electoral battle, but one that is still likely to spell the end of Joseph Kabila’s 17-year long rule of the country.
Fayulu was chosen to run against Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a long-time loyalist of President Joseph Kabila. Fayulu is the head of a small party, Engagement for Citizenship and Development, little known to the electorate or the world at large. Within a few hours of Fayulu’s choice being announced, two opposition leaders pulled out of the agreement and have since formed a third electoral coalition.
Kabila is seen as too unpopular among voters in the capital city Kinshasa and weak among rural voters in the western part of the country to win, even if he had not been barred because of constitutional term limits. His strength derives from control of the security forces, most of the government apparatus and a crony structure built around corruption and his person. Kabila had used legal barriers to block some more prominent opposition leaders, such as Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba, from being able to run for office.
A poll has said only 16 per cent of Congolese support Kabila’s proxy, Shadary. Kabila has been preparing for a possible electoral loss. He secured legislative immunity against any past crimes, strengthened his hold on the military and made himself the president of his party. Any chance of retaining power will depend on the opposition vote splitting so that even Shadary’s small vote share, plus Kabila’s financial clout, will put the government party back in power.
If the Congo did not have enough problems, the country experienced its tenth outbreak of Ebola last month. Over 300 people have become infected in the present outbreak. Controlling the outbreak is proving difficult as it occurred in an area near the Rwanda border where government forces are fighting one of the largest Congolese rebel forces, the Allied Democratic Forces. The rebel group was able to kill eight United Nations peacekeepers and a dozen Congolese soldiers in fighting last month.
November 29, 2018