Deciding the Future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
As the Democratic Republic of the Congo gears up for its forthcoming election this December, the spotlight is on whether President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration, incumbent since its 2019 victory, will clinch another term or if the electorate is poised for a new direction. The pivotal question looms: will a shift at the helm bolster economic advancement, or could it steer the nation toward an uncertain future?
In the historical backdrop of the DRC’s first peaceful transition of power, Tshisekedi’s tenure has been defined by a concerted effort toward economic enhancement, fortification of international ties, fostering domestic stability, and prioritizing the well-being of the Congolese people. Amidst the volley of criticism targeting the government for a variety of reasons, the core issue that demands attention is the determination of the most advantageous course for the DRC’s strategic interests and its citizenry.
The tumultuous tapestry of African politics often reveals that continuity in leadership is instrumental in sustaining stability. This holds especially true in election scenarios bereft of a politically viable alternative that garners widespread endorsement from the opposition. In a nation where public opinion polls are few, one such survey by GeoPoll Socio-Political Barometer unveiled a significant undercurrent of dissatisfaction with President Tshisekedi, yet paradoxically, he is deemed the front-runner for re-election. Despite an approval rating that hovers below the midpoint, there is a prevailing belief among the electorate that the nation is experiencing incremental improvements.
Peter Fabricius, writing for the Institute for Security Studies, draws on the analysis of Jacques Mukena, a Senior Governance Researcher at Ebuteli Institute, who posits that the inherent advantages of incumbency — with or without electoral manipulation — establish Tshisekedi as the nominal frontrunner. Mukena acknowledges potential discrepancies in the election’s fairness but notes that Tshisekedi and the CENI are likely to face intensified scrutiny by a more vigilant cohort of local and international observers this year. He also cites Delly Sessanga’s intent to defer to the Catholic Church’s assessment of the election’s outcome over the official electoral commission’s pronouncement.
“Jacques Mukena, Senior Governance Researcher at Ebuteli Institute, told ISS Today that given the huge advantages of incumbency – with or without rigging – Tshisekedi had to be considered the front runner,” Fabricius writes. “Mukena doesn’t expect the election to be completely free and fair, but felt Tshisekedi and CENI would be aware that they would be under closer scrutiny than in 2018 because more local and international observers would be watching. And because [Delly] Sessanga had already declared he would take his cue from the Catholic Church’s opinion of who won the elections, not [the electoral commission].”
International advocacy for political change, while well-intentioned, often disregards the well-being of the very citizens it aims to support. The current Tshisekedi regime has been recognized for spearheading significant job growth in non-mining sectors, infrastructure development, and the provision of fundamental services like healthcare and education. Notably, the administration has achieved a milestone by instituting free primary education. The DRC’s rising prominence as a central ally in the transition to green electric vehicles — underscored by events like the Second Kinshasa Electric Vehicle Battery Forum — signals a departure from past precedents.
The administration has also demonstrated a commitment to eradicating corruption, a scourge with which the DRC has long been synonymous. Recent strides include the removal of high-level officials implicated in corrupt practices, in line with President Tshisekedi’s campaign pledge. This marks a departure from a legacy of unchecked corruption and impunity, heralding a new era of governance.
Maintaining leadership continuity will enable the president and his team to persist in their efforts to invigorate the country’s economy, enhance the quality of life for the Congolese, and expand the infrastructure that connects Kinshasa to the global stage. In a political climate where the opposition lacks the strength to mount a substantial challenge, external pressures for change appear premature. The history of meddling in African elections is telling, and the potential perils are stark. The people of the DRC require stability, and at this historical juncture, President Tshisekedi appears uniquely positioned to provide it.