Party politics: Former Congolese interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary waves to his supporters as he arrives on Wednesday to file his candidacy for presidential elections at the DRC’s electoral commission head offices in the Gombe municipality in Kinshasa. Picture: REUTERS
Party politics: Former Congolese interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary waves to his supporters as he arrives on Wednesday to file his candidacy for presidential elections at the DRC’s electoral commission head offices in the Gombe municipality in Kinshasa. Picture: REUTERS

Kinshasa — The presidential candidate for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) ruling coalition hailed incumbent Joseph Kabila as an "exceptional man" for not seeking re-election in December, underlining his reputation as a loyal Kabila supporter.

Kabila’s coalition said on Wednesday that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would be its contender to lead Africa’s biggest copper and cobalt producer. One of 15 Congolese politicians and military officials sanctioned in the past two years by the EU, the 57-year-old is being accused of rights abuses and undermining democracy.

"It is the chance, before the Congolese people, to thank almighty God for the grace he has shown us and to thank sincerely and above all the moral authority of the Common Front for Congo [FCC], His Excellence Joseph Kabila Kabange, an exceptional man," Shadary said. "He is keeping his word. He said there will be no problem and there will be no third term."

Kabila's product

Kabila, in power since 2001, had been consulting with the FCC coalition since late July and its choice of candidate has been a closely guarded secret. His decision not to compete in the vote will assuage international actors such as the US, UN and AU, which had opposed any suggestion he would run for a third term. Congo’s major opposition groups had also demanded that Kabila respect term limits in the constitution.

Shadary runs Kabila’s political party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), the dominant member of the FCC, and was one of its founders. "You really can’t get more of a product of the Kabila system than Shadary because his entire political career is due to his association with Kabila," said Stephanie Wolters, head of the peace and security research programme at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. "This is not someone who has his own base — either politically or in the army."

Party officials say Kabila intends to remain active in Congolese politics, retaining the leaderships of the PPRD and the FCC. Since May, he has also reshuffled the judiciary and military hierarchy, reinforcing loyalty to him in key positions.

Kabila being ruled out as a candidate is a "crucial first step" towards ensuring a credible electoral process in Congo, Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed statement.

"Ramazani himself has been sanctioned by the EU and has played a key role in government repression over the past several years," she said. "Tough pressure from Congo’s regional and international partners must continue for the country to see a truly democratic transition and to prevent more repression and bloodshed in the months ahead."

Delayed elections

Congo’s presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place on December 23. They were initially supposed to be held in late 2016, but were postponed when the electoral commission failed to organise them.

Kabila was elected in two previous elections and adversaries claim that he was the main obstacle to timely polls. His refusal to exclude himself from the next election until the last minute fuelled speculation that he would seek another term. Registrations with the electoral commission closed on Wednesday and Shadary was the last of the 23 aspirants to sign up.

Kabila’s initial choice to retain the presidency beyond December 2016 sparked sporadic protests in which security forces killed dozens of people. Congo has not had a peaceful transfer of power since 1960.

Three major opposition leaders — Jean-Pierre Bemba, Vital Kamerhe and Felix Tshisekedi — have registered to compete in the election. Another, Moise Katumbi, says Kabila is preventing him from returning to Congo. The four men have said they may unite behind a single opposition candidate.

Bloomberg

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