Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. Picture: REUTERS/KENNY KATOMBE
Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. Picture: REUTERS/KENNY KATOMBE

Kinshasa — Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila is meeting members of his ruling coalition to discuss who will be the candidate in presidential elections this year, party and government officials said.

The DRC is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential votes on December 23. They have been delayed since 2016 by the electoral commission’s inability to organise them.

While the constitution bars Kabila from seeking a third term, he has yet to say whether he will be a candidate. Attempting to extend his 17-year rule risks destabilising the country.

Representatives of about a dozen groups that make up the Common Front for Congo were invited individually to Kabila’s farm outside the capital for consultations that are ongoing, the officials said on Monday. Two said he asked each group to come back to him with a list of four preferred potential presidential candidates.

"We are in deliberation to think about the profile of the candidate," said Ferdinand Kambere, the deputy permanent secretary of Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy. The PPRD is expected to deliver its four names on Tuesday, Kambere said, without saying who it will nominate.

‘Unequivocal’ commitment

Kabila said July 19 his commitment to the constitution is "unequivocal," but his persistent refusal to rule himself out of the next election is fuelling fears among his opponents and the international community that he plans to change or reinterpret the rules. Several senior allies have said the president has the right to run in December, arguing a modification adopted in 2011 introduced a completely new constitution.

Tryphon Kin-Kiey, a former minister of parliamentary affairs and senior FCC member, said his representatives met Kabila on July 28.

"Lots of groups will name him among the four names," Kin-Kiey said. "Some groups give four names; others give only one name, the name of Kabila." Kin-Kiey was not  present at the meeting because he was abroad, but was fully briefed on what took place.

Kabila’s deputy chief-of-staff, Jean-Pierre Kambila, said Kabila did not  request specific names of potential FCC candidates. Instead, "he asked them to reflect on the criteria" that should apply to choosing a candidate, according to Kambila.

DRC Communications Minister Lambert Mende said he was at the president’s farm on Monday and his group had not at that point been asked to prepare a list of names.

Registration for presidential candidates opened last week and the final day to file applications with the country’s electoral commission is August  8

"The candidate will emerge naturally," Kambila said. "There are still eight days. It’s not long. Be patient."