Politics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Democratic Republic
of the Congo

Politics of the Democratic Republic of Congo take place in a framework of a republic in transition from a civil war to a semi-presidential republic.

On 18 and 19 December 2005, a successful nationwide referendum was carried out on a draft constitution, which set the stage for elections in 2006. The voting process, though technically difficult due to the lack of infrastructure, was facilitated and organized by the Congolese Independent Electoral Commission with support from the UN mission to the Congo (MONUC). Early UN reports indicate that the voting was for the most part peaceful, but spurred violence in many parts of the war-torn east and the Kasais.

In 2006, many Congolese complained that the constitution was a rather ambiguous document and were unaware of its contents. This is due in part to the high rates of illiteracy in the country. However, interim President Kabila urged Congolese to vote 'Yes', saying the constitution is the country's best hope for peace in the future. 25 million Congolese turned out for the two-day balloting. [1] [2] According to results released in January 2006, the constitution was approved by 84% of voters. [3]. The new constitution also aims to decentralize authority, dividing the vast nation into 25 semi-autonomous provinces, drawn along ethnic and cultural lines.[4]

The country's first democratic elections in four decades were held on 30 July 2006, with a run-off between the incumbent, President Kabila, and his rival Bemba held on 29 October 2006. Polling was once again facilitated - yet not run - by UN peacekeepers. [5].

Political history[edit]

From the day King Leopold II established colonial authority in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo to today, the country's government has been unstable. This is reflected in its seven name changes since 1885:

  • Congo Free State (1885–1908)
  • Belgian Congo (1908–60) t
  • Republic of The Congo (1960–64)
  • People's Republic of the Congo (1964–66)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (1966–71)
  • Republic of Zaire (1971–97)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (since 1997).

From the day of the arguably ill-prepared independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the tensions between the powerful leaders of the political elite, such as Joseph Kasa Vubu, Patrice Lumumba, Moise Tshombe, Joseph Mobutu and others, jeopardize the political stability of the new state. From Tshombe's secession of the Katanga, to the assassination of Lumumba, to the two coups d'état of Mobutu, the country has known periods of true nationwide peace, but virtually no period of genuine democratic rule.

The Mobutu era[edit]

The Regime of Marshall Mobutu Sese Seko lasted 32 years (1965–1997), during which all but the first seven years the country was named Zaire. The dictatorial regime operated as a one-party-state, which saw most of the powers concentrated between President Mobutu, who was simultaneously the head of the state-party (Popular Movement of the Revolution), and a series of essentially rubber-stamping institutions.

One particularity of the Regime was the claim to be thriving for an authentic system, different from Western, or Soviet influences. This lasted roughly between the establishment of Zaire in 1971, and the official beginning of the transition towards democracy, on 24 April 1990. This was true at the regular people's level as everywhere else. People were ordered by law to drop their Western Christian names; the titles Mr. and Mrs. were abandoned for the male and female versions of the French word for "citizen"; Men were forbidden to wear suits, and women to wear pants. At the institutional level, many of the institutions also changed denominations, but the end result was a system that borrowed from both systems:

  • The party Central Committee: The country being a one-party-state, this committee had a higher position in the institutional make-up than the government or cabinet. It had both executive oversight authority, and in practice, binding legislative authority, as it dictated the party platform. The committee was headed by Mobutu. The Vice-President of the committee was essentially the country's Vice-President, without the succession rights.
  • The Executive Council: known elsewhere as the Government or the Cabinet. This was the executive authority in the country, made of State Commissioners (known elsewhere as ministers). For a long period of time, Mobutu was the sole leader of the Executive Council. He eventually started appointing First State Commissioners (known elsewhere as Prime ministers), with largely coordinating powers, and very little executive power. The last "First State Commissioner" was Kengo Wa Dondo.
  • The Legislative Council: essentially the rubber-stamp Parliament, it was made up of People Commissioners (known elsewhere as MPs), who were sometimes elected, as individual members of the party, and always on the party platform.
  • The Supreme Court: The only seemingly independent branch was the judiciary. But in effect, it was subordinate to a Judicial Council over which the regime had a very strong influence.

Every corporation, whether financial or union, as well as every division of the administration, were set up as branches of the party, the CEOs, Union leaders, and division directors being sworn-in as section presidents of the party. Every aspect of life was regulated to some degree by the party, and the will of its founding-president, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Most of the petty aspects of the regime disappeared after 1990, and the beginning of the democratic transition. The latter was intended to be fairly short-lived, but Mobutu's power plays dragged it in length, to ultimately 1997, when the forces-led by Laurent Kabila eventually toppled the regime, after a 9-month-long successful military campaign.

The Kabilas' governments and war[edit]

The government of former president Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent Kabila in May 1997, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda. They were later to turn against Kabila and backed a rebellion against him in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups, but fighting continued.

Under Laurent Kabila's regime, all executive, legislative, and military powers were first vested in the President, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The judiciary was independent, with the president having the power to dismiss or appoint. The president was first head of a 26-member cabinet dominated by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL). Towards the end of the 90s, Laurent Kabila created and appointed a Transitional Parliament, with a seat in the buildings of the former Katanga Parliament, in the southern town of Lubumbashi, in a move to unite the country, and to legitimate his regime. Kabila was assassinated on 16 January 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state ten days later.

The younger Kabila continued with his father's Transitional Parliament, but overhauled his entire cabinet, replacing it with a group of technocrats, with the stated aim of putting the country back on the track of development, and coming to a decisive end of the Second Congo War. In October 2002, the new president was successful in getting occupying Rwandan forces to withdraw from eastern Congo; two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a Transition Government, the make-up of which would allow representation for all negotiating parties. Two founding documents emerged from this: The Transition Constitution, and the Global and Inclusive Agreement, both of which describe and determine the make-up and organization of the Congolese institutions, until planned elections in July 2006, at which time the provisions of the new constitution, democratically approved by referendum in December 2005, will take full effect and that is how it happened.

Under the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement, signed on 17 December 2002, in Pretoria, there was to be one President and four Vice-Presidents, one from the government, one from the Rally for Congolese Democracy, one from the MLC, and one from civil society. The position of Vice-President expired after the 2006 elections.

Present situation[edit]

After being for three years (2003–06) in the interregnum between two constitutions, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is now under the regime of the Constitution of the Third Republic. The constitution, adopted by referendum in 2005, and promulgated by President Joseph Kabila in February 2006, establishes a decentralized semi-presidential republic, with a separation of powers between the three branches of government - executive, legislative and judiciary, and a distribution of prerogatives between the central government and the provinces.

Executive branch[edit]

Since the July 2006 elections, the country is led by a semi-presidential, strongly-decentralized state. The executive at the central level, is divided between the President, and a Prime Minister appointed by him/her from the party having the majority of seats in Parliament. Should there be no clear majority, the President can appoint a "government former" that will then have the task to win the confidence of the National Assembly. The President appoints the government members (ministers) at the proposal of the Prime Minister. In coordination, the President and the government have the charge of the executive. The Prime minister and the government are responsible to the lower-house of Parliament, the National Assembly.

At the province level, the Provincial legislature (Provincial Assembly) elects a governor, and the governor, with his government of up to 10 ministers, is in charge of the provincial executive. Some domains of government power are of the exclusive provision of the Province, and some are held concurrently with the Central government. This is not a Federal state however, simply a decentralized one, as the majority of the domains of power are still vested in the Central government. The governor is responsible to the Provincial Assembly.

Criticisms[edit]

The semi-presidential system has been described by some as "conflictogenic" and "dictatogenic"[6], as it ensures frictions, and a reduction of pace in government life, should the President and the Prime Minister be from different sides of the political arena. This was seen several times in France, a country that shares the semi-presidential model. It was also, arguably, in the first steps of the Congo into independence, the underlying cause of the crisis between Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa Vubu, who ultimately dismissed each other, in 1960.

Legislative branch[edit]

Under the Transition Constitution[edit]

The Inter-Congolese dialogue, that set-up the transitional institutions, created a bicameral parliament, with a National Assembly and Senate, made up of appointed representatives of the parties to the dialogue. These parties included the preceding government, the rebel groups that were fighting against the government, with heavy Rwandan and Ugandan support, the internal opposition parties, and the Civil Society. At the beginning of the transition, and up until recently, the National Assembly is headed by the MLC with Speaker Hon. Olivier Kamitatu, while the Senate is headed by a representative of the Civil Society, namely the head of the Church of Christ in Congo, Mgr. Pierre Marini Bodho. Hon. Kamitatu has since left both the MLC and the Parliament to create his own party, and ally with current President Joseph Kabila. Since then, the position of Speaker is held by Hon. Thomas Luhaka, of the MLC.

Aside from the regular legislative duties, the Senate had the charge to draft a new constitution for the country. That constitution was adopted by referendum in December 2005, and decreed into law on 18 February 2006.

Under the New Constitution[edit]

The Parliament of the third republic is also bicameral, with a National Assembly and a Senate. Members of the National Assembly, the lower - but the most powerful - house, are elected by direct suffrage. Senators are elected by the legislatures of the 26 provinces.

Judicial branch[edit]

Under the Transition Constitution[edit]

Under the New Constitution[edit]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Under the Transition Constitution[edit]

10 provinces (provinces, singular - province) and one city* (ville): Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Équateur, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Katanga, Kinshasa*, Maniema, North Kivu, Orientale, South Kivu.

Each province is divided into districts.

Under the New Constitution[edit]

25 provinces (provinces, singular - province) and city* (ville): Bas-Uele | Équateur | Haut-Lomami | Haut-Katanga | Haut-Uele | Ituri | Kasaï | Kasaï oriental | Kongo central | Kwango | Kwilu | Lomami | Lualaba | Lulua | Mai-Ndombe | Maniema | Mongala | North Kivu | Nord-Ubangi | Sankuru | South Kivu | Sud-Ubangi | Tanganyika | Tshopo | Tshuapa | Kinshasa*

Political parties and elections[edit]

e • d Summary of the 28 November 2011 Democratic Republic of the Congo presidential election results
Candidate Party Votes %
Joseph Kabila Independent 8,880,944 48.95%
Étienne Tshisekedi Union for Democracy and Social Progress 5,864,775 32.33%
Vital Kamerhe Union for the Congolese Nation 1,403,372 7.74%
Léon Kengo Union of Forces of Change 898,362 4.95%
Antipas Mbusa Independent 311,787 1.72%
Nzanga Mobutu Union of Mobutuist Democrats 285,273 1.57%
Jean Andeka Alliance of Congolese Nationalist Believers 128.820 0.71%
Adam Bombolé Independent 126,623 0.70%
François Nicéphore Kakese Union for the Revival and the Development of Congo 92,737 0.51%
Josué Alex Mukendi Independent 78,151 0.43%
Oscar Kashala Union for the Rebuilding of Congo 72,260 0.40%
Total (turnout 58.81%) 18,911,572 100.00%
Source: CENI-RDC
e • d Summary of the 19 January 2007 provisional Senate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo election results
Parties Alliances Leader Seats
People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie) AMP Joseph Kabila 22
Movement for the Liberation of Congo (Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo) UpN Jean-Pierre Bemba 14
Forces for Renewal (Forces du Renouveau) AMP Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi 7
Congolese Rally for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie) 7
Christian Democrat Party (Parti Démocrate Chrétien) AMP José Endundo Bononge 6
Convention of Christian Democrats (Convention des Démocrates Chrétiens) 3
Social Movement for Renewal (Mouvement Social pour le Renouveau) AMP 3
Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié) AMP Antoine Gizenga 2
Alliance of Congolese Democrats (Alliance des Démocrates Congolais) 1
United Congolese Convention (Convention des Congolais Unis) AMP 1
Democratic Convention for Development (Convention Démocrate pour le Développement) 1
Coalition of Congolese Democrats (Coalition des Démocrates Congolais) Jean-Claude Muyambo 1
Convention for the Republic and Democracy (Convention pour la République et la Démocratie) UpN 1
Federalist Christian Democracy (Démocratie Chrétienne Fédéraliste–Convention des Fédéralistes pour la Démocratie Chrétiene) AMP Venant Tshipasa 1
Social Front of Independent Republicans (Front Social des Indépendants Républicains) 1
Liberal Christian Democrats Union (Union des Libéraux Démocrates Chrétiens) Raymond Tshibanda 1
National Alliance Party for Unity (Parti de l’Alliance Nationale pour l’Unité) AMP André-Philippe Futa 1
Democratic Socialist Party (Parti Démocratique Socialiste) 1
Democratic Social Christian Party (Parti Democrate Social Chretien) André Bo-Boliko Lokonga 1
Rally for Economic and Social Development (Rassemblement pour le Développement Économique et Social) 1
Rally of Congolese Democrats and Nationalists (Rassemblement des Congolais Démocrates et Nationalistes) UpN 1
Rally of Social and Federalist Forces (Rassemblement des Forces Sociales et Fédéralistes) 1
Congolese Union for Liberty (Union Congolaise pour la Liberté) 1
Union of Mobutuist Democrats (Union des Démocrates Mobutistes) AMP Nzanga Mobutu 1
National Union of Christian Democrats (Union Nationale des Démocrates Chrétiens) 1
National Union of Federalist Democrats (Union Nationale des Démocrates Fédéralistes) Mwando Nsimba 1
Independent N/A N/A 26
Total 108
Source: http://www.cei-rdc.cd/IMG/pdf/senateur_200107-6.pdf "Portant Annonce des Resultats Provisoires de l'Election des Senateurs du 19 Janvier 2007 en Republique Democratique du Congo"], Commission Electorale Independante, 20 January 2007.


e • d Summary of the 30 July 2006 presidential election results
Candidate Party Votes %
Joseph Kabila Independent 7,590,485 44.81%
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo Movement for the Liberation of Congo 3,392,592 20.03%
Antoine Gizenga Unified Lumumbist Party 2,211,280 13.06%
Nzanga Mobutu Union of Mobutist Democrats 808,397 4.77%
Oscar Kashala Union for Congo's Reconstruction 585,410 3.46%
Azarias Ruberwa Manywa Congolese Rally for Democracy 285,641 1.69%
Pierre Pay-Pay wa Syakasighe Federalist Christian Democracy-Convention of Federalists for Christian Democracy 267,749 1.58%
Vincent de Paul Lunda-Bululu Rally of Social and Federalist Forces 237,257 1.40%
Joseph Olenghankoy Mukundji New Forces for Union and Solidarity 102,186 0.60%
Pierre Anatole Matusila Malungenine Kongo Independent 99,408 0.59%
Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi Renewal Forces 96,503 0.57%
Bernard Emmanuel Kabatu Suila USL 86,143 0.51%
Eugène Diomi Ndongala Christian Democracy 85,897 0.51%
other candidates 2,319,547 6.42%
Total (turnout 70.54%) 17,931,238
Source: CEI-RDC
e • d Summary of the 30 July 2006 National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of the Congo election results
Parties Seats Votes
People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et le Démocratie) 111 22.2
Movement for the Liberation of Congo (Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo) 64 12.8
Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié) 34 6.8
Social Movement for Renewal (Mouvement Social pour le Renouveau) 27 5.4
Forces for Renewal (Forces du Renouveau) 26 5.2
Congolese Rally for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie) 15 3.0
Coalition of Congolese Democrats (Coalition des Démocrates Congolais) 10 2.0
Convention of Christian Democrats (Convention des Démocrates Chrétiens) 10 2.0
Union of Mobutuist Democrats (Union des Démocrates Mobutistes) 9 1.8
Camp of the Fatherland (Camp de la Patrie) 8 1.6
Federalist Christian Democracy-Convention of Federalists for Christian Democracy (Démocratie Chrétienne Fédéraliste–Convention des Fédéralistes pour la Démocratie Chrétiene) 8 1.6
Christian Democrat Party (Parti Démocrate Chrétien) 8 1.6
Union of Federalist Nationalists of Congo (Union des Nationalistes Fédéralistes du Congo) 7 1.4
Congolese Alliance of Christian Democrats (Alliance Congolaise des Démocrates Chrétiens) 4 0.8
Alliance of Congolese Democrats (Alliance des Démocrates Congolais) 4 0.8
United Congolese Convention (Convention des Congolais Unis) 4 0.8
Resistance Patriots Maï-Maï (Patriotes Résistants Maï-Maï) 4 0.8
Rally of Congolese Democrats and Nationalists (Rassemblement des Congolais Démocrates et Nationalistes) 4 0.8
Union of the People for Republic and Integral Development (Union du Peuple pour la République et le Développement Intégral) 4 0.8
Union of Builders of Kongo (Alliance des Bâtisseurs du Kongo) 3 0.6
Democratic Convention for Development (Convention Démocrate pour le Développement) 3 0.6
Convention for the Republic and Democracy (Convention pour la République et la Démocratie) 3 0.6
National Alliance Party for Unity (Parti de l’Alliance Nationale pour l’Unité) 3 0.6
Party of Nationalists for Integral Development (Parti des Nationalistes pour le Développement Intégral) 3 0.6
Union of Congolese Patriots (Union des patriotes congolais) 3 0.6
National Union of Federalist Democrats (Union Nationale des Démocrates Fédéralistes) 3 0.6
Alliance of Congolese Believing Nationalists (Alliance des Nationalistes Croyants Congolais) 2 0.4
Alliance for the Renewal of Congo (Alliance pour le Renouveau du Congo) 2 0.4
Renewing Forces for Union and Solidarity (Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarité) 2 0.4
Movement for Democracy and Development (Mouvement pour la Démocratie et le Développement) 2 0.4
Congolese Party for Good Governance (Parti Congolais pour la Bonne Gouvernance) 2 0.4
People's Revolution Party (Parti de la Révolution du Peuple) 2 0.4
Democratic Social Christian Party (Parti Democrate Social Chretien) 2 0.4
Rally of Social and Federalist Forces (Rassemblement des Forces Sociales et Fédéralistes) 2 0.4
Electoral Platform Renaissance (Renaissance Plate-forme électorale) 2 0.4
Solidarity for National Development (Solidarité pour le Développement National ) 2 0.4
Union for the Republican Majority (Union pour la Majorité Républicaine ) 2 0.4
National Union of Christian Democrats (Union Nationale des Démocrates Chrétiens) 2 0.4
Action of the Rally for Reconstruction and Edification (Action de Rassemblement pour la Reconstruction et l'Edification Nationales ) 1 0.2
Alliance of Congolese Nationalists (Alliance des Nationalistes Congolais/Plate Forme ) 1 0.2
Conscience and People's Will (Conscience et Volonté du Peuple ) 1 0.2
Christian Convention for Democracy (Convention Chrétienne pour la Démocratie) 1 0.2
National Convention of Political Action (Convention Nationale d'Action Politique)) 1 0.2
National Convention for Republic and Progress (Convention Nationale pour la République et le Progrès 1 0.2
Christian Democracy {Démocratie Chrétienne) 1 0.2
Front of Congolese Democrats (Front des Démocrates Congolais) 1 0.2
Front for Social Integration (Front pour l'Intégration Sociale) 1 0.2
Social Front of Independent Republicans (Front Social des Indépendants Républicains) 1 0.2
Front of Social Democrats for Development (Front des Sociaux Démocrates pour le Développement) 1 0.2
Republican Generations (Générations Républicaines) 1 0.2
Action Movement for Resurrection of the Congo-Fraternity and Labour Party (Mouvement d'Action pour la Résurrection du Congo, Parti du Travail et de la Fraternité) 1 0.2
Self-Defence Movement for Integrity and Maintenance of Independent Authority (Mouvement d'Autodéfense pour l'Intégrité et le Maintien de l'Autorité Indépendante) 1 0.2
Congolese People's Movement for the Republic (Mouvement du Peuple Congolais pour la République) 1 0.2
Popular Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution) 1 0.2
Solidarity Movement for Democracy and Development (Mouvement Solidarité pour la Démocratie et le Développement) 1 0.2
Maï Maï Movement (Mouvement Maï-Maï) 1 0.2
Political Organisation of Kasavubists and Allies (Organisation Politique des Kasavubistes et Alliés) 1 0.2
Congolese Party for the People's Well-Being (Parti Congolais pour le Bien-être du Peuple) 1 0.2
National Unity Party (Parti de l'Unité Nationale) 1 0.2
National People's Party (Parti National du Peuple) 1 0.2
Rally of Christians for the Congo (Rassemblement des Chrétiens pour le Congo) 1 0.2
Rally of Congolese Ecologist-The Greens (Rassemblement des Écologistes Congolais, les verts) 1 0.2
Rally for Economic and Social Development (Rassemblement pour le Développement Économique et Social) 1 0.2
Congolese Union for Change (Union Congolaise pour le Changement) 1 0.2
Liberal Christian Democrats Union (Union des Libéraux Démocrates Chrétiens) 1 0.2
Union of Congolese Nationalist Patriots (Union des Patriotes Nationalistes Congolais) 1 0.2
Union for the Defence of the Republic (Union pour la Défense de la République) 1 0.2
Independents 63 12.6
Others 2 0.4
Total 500 100

International organization participation[edit]

ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AU, CEEAC, CEPGL, ECA, FAO, G-19, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, ITUC, NAM, OPCW (signatory), PCA, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCO WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

External links[edit]