Congo's Constitutional Battle

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Constitutional Debate
Q & A

Q & A
1. What is the central point of contention around Congo's constitution?
The DRC's Constitution limits the office of Presidency to two five year terms. Joseph Kabila, the current DRC president's second five year term (2011-2016) will expire in December 2016, however, members of his party have argued for changing the constitution so that Joseph Kabila can run for a third term. Civil society groups, opposition parties, the catholic Church, notable figures in the DRC and others have called on Kabila and his ruling majority to respect the constitution and step down in 2016 when the next Presidential elections are to be held.

2. Has Joseph Kabila said he plans to change the Constitution to remain in office?
No, he has not said he plans to change the constitution. However, he has not said unequivocally that he plans to abide by the constitution and step down in 2016. If Joseph Kabila was to declare resolutely that he will abide by the constitution and step down, there would be no issue to discuss or debate.

3. What has been the response from the political opposition?
The political opposition has vociferously called for Kabila to respect the constitution, organize elections in 2016 and step down. They have been organizing demonstrations and sit-ins to protest any attempt to change the constitution to keep Joseph Kabila in power.

4. Is there any chance that what happened in Burkina Faso will occur in the Congo?
As was the case in Burkina Faso, it appears that those in power aim to manipulate the constitution to remain in power. Ideally, Joseph Kabila and his majority coalition would respect the constitution and step down at the end of his second term in 2016. However, if Kabila attempts to stay in power, there is a high likelihood that large demonstrations will ensue. Whether they will reach the scale of Burkina Faso is difficult to say, however, there will be protests that will increase in size as we get closer to 2016.

5. When was Congo's Constitution ratified?
The Constitution was ratified through a nationwide referendum in 2006.

6. Has the Constitution been amended since its ratification in 2006?
Yes! Several amendments were made in 2011 to give the president more power and strengthen the majority party, most notable was the changing of the electoral rules to benefit Joseph Kabila. The Constitution originally required a run-off in Presidential elections if no one candidate received more than fifty percent of the votes. Kabila changed the Constitution so that only a plurality of the votes would be required to win the presidency and no runoff would be required if no one candidate garnered fifty percent or more. The Kabila regime argued this was necessary to reduce the cost of the elections but a more plausible explanation is that Kabila is deeply unpopular and could not garner more than fifty percent of the popular vote and if pitted against any singular candidate in the elections, he would likely lose because of the profound level of discontent with his leadership.

Article 220
The republican form of the State, the principle of universal suffrage, the representative form of government, the number and length of the terms of office of the President of the Republic, the independence of the Judicial Power, the pluralism of political parties and trade unions may not form the object of a Constitutional amendment.

Any constitutional amendment having as its objective or consequence the reduction of individuals rights and liberties or the reductions of the prerogatives of the provinces and decentralized territorial entities is formally prohibited.

Individuals and institutions in Support of Changing the Constitution
PPRD - Joseph Kabila's Political Party
Évariste Boshab Mabudj-ma-Bilenge - Vice-Premier ministre de l’Intérieur et de la Sécurité
Lambert Mende - Minister of Information

Individuals and Institutions Against Changing the Constitution
The National Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Dr. Denis Mukwege - Head of Panzi Hospital
650 Civil Society Organizations
Moise Katumbi, Governor of Katanga Province
Georges Mawine, Former Vice President of PPRD Youth Division
Opposition Political Parties
President of the Congolese Senate
United Nations
United States

Key News Articles on Congo's Constitutional Debate

Church Opposes DR Congo Constitutional Change
Click here to read!

Congo-Kinshasa: Protests Against Constitutional Amendment
Click here to read!

Congo’s President Will he, Won’t He?
The Economist
Click here to read!

Katanga: la Société civile initie une pétition contre tout changement de la constitution
Click here to read!

650 organisations de la société civile disent non à la révision constitutionnelle en RD Congo
Click here to read!

Discours du Docteur Denis Mukwege à l’occasion de la remise du Prix Sakharov
lors de la session plénière du Parlement européen à Strasbourg le 26 novembre 2014
Click here to read!

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