The DR Congo: Post-Election Crisis: Bridging the gap between Democracy as A Process and as A System.

by admin on March 15, 2012

Congolese people acknowledge, generally, that the intended function of
the democratic process in the Congo, and elsewhere, is to maintain the
balance of power between the executive, the legislative and  the judicial branches of government. For such a democracy to work, the
executive branch must be engaged in a transformational relationship with
both the legislature and the judiciary and not a transactional. In the case of the Congo, the skewed relationship (transactional) between the executive and the judiciary appears to have had harmful effects on the nation  state building process.

Congolese political elite have had serious difficulty accepting that
respect for the balance of power in any functioning democracy (transformational) is foundational to the stable society;  such respect  calls for the government to be inclusive—all citizens are equal before the law because what is at stake is a shared vision for the country toward which every one is working for.

Democratic process, including aspects of its essential ingredients
such as regular elections, has been embraced but expectations with
regard to the end results have remained opaque and, until now,  have
been accorded too little attention.

As a consequence, the political process in the Congo moves neither
forward nor backward; it is static. And  thus it has been since the
’60s until the present. Typically, the country takes one step forward
and two backward. Every opportunity for democratic  change has been
either missed or abused. Today the Congolese people are tired and wish
to see a game changer on the national political scene, a leader who
understands that the nature and the function of the judiciary must be

For most of us who have followed political trends and political
behaviour in the Congo since the ‘60s, the dynamics of the just
concluded elections brought no surprises. In post-electoral Congo, the
loser, typically, does not obey a court ruling; rather, the losers
ignore the court’s role in resolving post-electoral grievances,
preferring instead to create  uncertainty for themselves and their
followers. In the case of the electoral dispute between Kasa-Vubu and
Lumumba, even though Lumumba and his followers took the case to the court, the judicial branch of the democratic structure didn’t unfortunately, played its adjudicator role properly, democracy as a process worked but failed as a transformative system.  Would it  have functioned such an initiative would have prevented the second republic from succumbing to the established pattern of failure. It was a precedent to be observed and repeated, respectively, during the ’90, 2006 and 2011 election processes.

Between fight and flight, Lumumba was instead arrested and then murdered, his followers also known as Lumumbists, proceeded to Kisangani and instituted a government parallel to the one then being established by Kasa-Vubu in Kinshasa. Together and separately they led the country to nowhere
until Mobutu overthrew the government in Kinshasa and overpowered the
one in Kisangani.
First lessons learned is that In Congo certain trappings of the democracy process functioned, but overall it failed as a system due to the transactional form the system were forced to become. In this context,  post-colonial Congo experienced its first constitutional crisis which has been falsely identified as a
political crisis.

During the ’90s, following the end of the ‘cold war’, Mobutu  reversed
the political course of the ’60s, but succumbed, generally,  to the
established pattern. He rejected the outcome of the elections held
during the national conference which had identified Tshisekedi as
Prime Minister who then proceeded to proclaim himself president. But first, like Lumumba and his followers he took the grievances to the supreme court for adjudication.

The court did not question Tshisekedi legality choosing instead the option of silence. Meanwhile, Mobutu simply out-maneuvered Tshisekedi in the power game. Tshisekedi survived physically, but uncertainty plagued his political fortunes from that time to today. Lesson learned:  if the court–the judicial branch of the democratic structure– had played its adjudicator role properly,
democracy as a system in Congo would have functioned; such an
initiative would have prevented the third republic from succumbing to
the established pattern of failure. It was a precedent to be observed
and repeated, respectively, during the 2006 and 2011 election

In the 2006 presidential elections, Bemba stood as Kabila’s political
opponent; Kabila was proclaimed the winner, Bemba contested the election results using strong-arm tactics to disparage the court’s ruling with regard to the thirty other candidates, choosing, nevertheless, to take no legal action!
Bemba was eventually arrested not because he used his militia to overthrow Kabila but by the International Criminal Court where he was obliged to answer allegations of massacres committed by his troops in Central Africa.

Five years later, in November 2011, the results of the presidential
election in the Congo followed, rather precisely, the political script
that had been established in the past. Kabila was proclaimed the
winner of the election exercise;  of the other ten candidates, only
one contested the results in the court where he  lost his case; eight
others took no legal action, calling instead for a roundtable process
to negotiate a power-sharing deal while Tshisekedi–Kabila’s most
prominent opponent-proclaimed himself President of the Congo,
intending, apparently, to administer a parallel government. Du deja vu.

At this point it is unclear whether Kabila or the court will
challenge the legality of Tshisekedi’s self-declared presidency  and
parallel government. No legal action is foreseen. What is happening instead?

Fifty two years after Congo independence in June 30, 1960, an unprecedented movement is taking place around the world. It is hard to say if this a movement or a post-election malaise. The Congolese Diaspora around the world, led by Tshisekedi’s followers,
seems to be caught in the same rut. Those supporting Tshisekedi call
themselves combatants, posturing aggressively. Instead of encouraging
their leader to take the court seriously, they are marching in the
streets calling for the government in Europe, US and Africa Union to overturn the verdict of the Congolese supreme court.

What can we learn? Can some best practices be identified to strengthen
the democratic system in DRC, even if such practices were to prove
less than perfect? Isn’t time for Kabila regime to consider reforming the judicial system as recommended by the delegates to the InterCongolese Dialogue in Sun City, South Africa.


Fidele Lumeya

February 2012

Washington, D. C.

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