Article written

  • on 30.01.2015
  • at 02:30 PM
  • by Kevin

Blood on the streets: Understanding the popular uprising in Congo 0

Apparently inspired by last year’s massive protests in Burkina Faso that ended the regime of President Blaise Compaore who wanted to extend his rule, Congolese citizens last week poured out into the streets to oppose perceived attempts by President Kabila to hold onto power. The people won. But will Kabila still pursue his ambition?

The Congolese political saga resembles an alcohol-laden early morning bar brawl in which one is forced to punch through or duck for cover. In the last week Congolese people, fed up with the government attempt to modify the electoral law descended on the streets in Kinshasa and other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cars were burnt or overturned, buses were stoned, and tires were lit in public squares while protestors, armed with sticks and stones, defiantly chanted “Kabila degage! Kabila Degage! (Kabila get out! Kabila get out!). These violent protests originated in Kinshasa and spread to other parts of the Congo between January 19 and 22, 2015. According to to the official account, four Congolese were killed as an outcome of violent protests. Unofficial accounts have reported over 28 deaths, with many more people missing and hundreds arrested. One easily sides with the unofficial accounts because often the Congolese government has misrepresented facts to minimize their probable social and political implications. Perhaps you wish to know why Congolese descended on the streets, stoning, overturning and burning cars while chanting, “Kabila gets out!” and risking their lives in the process.


The immediate event that triggered the violent protests in Kinshasa and other parts of the Congo was an attempt by the Congolese political majority to modify the electoral law and cunningly prolong Joseph Kabila’s presidency. In the Congolese political jargon this type of maneuver is called “glissement electoral” (electoral sliding). Electoral sliding is an instance where administrative inadequacies and political calculations delay the electoral calendar for few months or years. The current constitution does not allow Kabila to run again for the highest office in the country, everybody knows that. He is serving his second term. As of now Kabila’s best option to stay in power is through delay of the presidential elections, or electoral sliding. If Kabila stubbornly clings to power there is a great chance that the Congo might descend into chaos. The violent protests of last week indicate what might happen if Kabila and his political clique hold onto power. For Kabila to stay in power beyond 2016 it would require the old game overused by African political dinosaurs: changing the constitution or suspend it altogether. We have heard that tune quite often in African politics: Omar Bongo (Gabon), Sassaou Nguesso Republic of Congo), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and many others have overstayed their presidencies by re-moulding the constitution to their political liking.

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By Patrick Litanga

Photo Credit: Antoine Moens de Hase / Flickr

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