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Politics of the Democratic Republic of Congo Essay

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Updated: Sep 24th, 2020

Most observers and political scholars have often attributed the lack of democratization in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to poor leadership. Nevertheless, there are various underlying issues in DRC’s quest for absolute democratization. There is a lot of evidence indicating that the presence of authoritarian regimes in DRC has served as the major impediment to the achievement of democracy (Nzongola-Ntalaja 23).

When the country’s leadership was in the hands of Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent-Desire Kabila Kabila, there was little semblance of democracy in the DRC. From the 1980s to the early 2000s, the DRC was the scene of intense strife as Mobutu and the Kabilas did all they could to hold on to power. On the other hand, the opposition also failed to steer or inspire the country towards an institutionally solid path of democracy. This report is a critical discussion how Mobutu, the Kabilas, and the opposition failed to implement a democratic political system in the DRC.

Democracy is not a concept that can be implemented from the surface, but it requires to be deeply cultivated from the grassroots. Consequently, “the security and productivity of counties, cantons, or villages constitutes the starting point of a strong state…whereas the general tendency to use these entities only as electoral constituencies, and isolate them immediately after election campaigns” (Anstey 37).

This approach was heavily used by all political stakeholders in DRC including the opposition. Both Mobutu and the senior Kabila were the power unto themselves. The two individuals wielded power on behalf of all other institutions in the country (Koko 34). For instance, Mobutu had the power to issue currency while Kabila banned all other political parties within the DRC. With all their powers, Kabila and Mobutu could use political and state appointments to sanitize all elements of a democratic system in the country.

The opposition’s response to Mobutu and Kabila’s regimes was to use strife to obtain power at any cost. Instead of agitating for institutional systems such as electoral units, the opposition sought to wield power through wars and coup de tats. Consequently, the opposition movements acted as competitors for power with the authoritarian rulers as opposed to being a checking their extravagances (Reno 18). For instance, “the opposition’s armed rebellion led by the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) to topple Laurent Kabila clearly demonstrated that its armed opposition was unpopular, clouded with hidden agendas, counter-productive, opportunistic and prone to self-destruction” (Freedman 54).

The nepotism and patrimony that was exhibited by the ruling elite was detrimental to any chances that the opposition had of agitating for democracy. All the major personalities who were at the helm of DRC’s leadership were not accommodative of the country’s quest for democracy (Jaggers and Gurr 472). For example, Mobutu was interested in using the country’s wealth for his personal gain while the Kabila’s were mainly preoccupied with sectarian politics.

Overall, the possibility of a democratic system in the DRC never relied on any single factor but various factors had to align in order for this goal to be achieved. Each of the prevailing leaders considered democracy a threat to their other agendas such as the pursuit for power and their personal agendas. On the other hand, the opposition response to tyranny was to marshal their own instruments of power and obtain leadership by force from Mobutu and the Kabilas. In the end, undemocratic systems became the order of the day as a result of lack of a genuine push for democracy.

Works Cited

Anstey, Mark. “Can a Fledgling Democracy Take Flight in the Democratic Republic of Congo?.” African Journal on Conflict Resolution 6.2 (2007): 35-67. Print.

Freedman, Jane. Gender, Violence and Politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo, London: Ashgate Publishing, 2015. Print.

Jaggers, Keith, and Ted Robert Gurr. “Tracking Democracy’s Third Wave with the Polity III Data.” Journal of Peace Research 32.4 (1995): 469-482. Print.

Koko, Sadiki. “The ‘One-Plus-Four’ formula and Transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” African Security Studies 16.1 (2007): 33-47. Print.

Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges. The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History, London: Zed Books, 2002. Print.

Reno, William. Warlord Politics and African States, Sydney: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. Print.

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