Here, at the beginning of September 2014, the DRC is definitely at a crossroads. The political class is focused on the future of the 2005 constitution; will it be modified, replaced or kept? However, the political scene has been set and it reveals that there are both supporters and opponents of the current constitution.
Supporters of the 2005 constitution
There’s no surprise that opposition parties and civil society have come out publicly in favour of maintaining the current constitution. For them, the only aim of a change to the constitution would be to ensure President Kabila stays in power. However, if all political opponents currently give the impression that they oppose any change, let’s wait and see where they position themselves after the formation of the “national unity” government, expected in time for the re-opening of parliament in mid-September. Will those opponents who become ministers still be against the changes?
More surprising, however, is the fact that some voices within the presidential majority have come out against constitutional reform. MSR and SCODE are currently the two political parties who have publicly stated that there is no reason to amend the constitution. This shows that, contrary to popular belief, the presidential majority is not a monolithic group intent only on preserving the interests and/or carrying out the orders of its leader. Let us, therefore, wait and see where the hitherto silent members of the majority will position themselves. Are we witnessing a straightforward bargaining exercise by those with their sights set on the next government or a real desire to respect the rules set up by the referendum of 18 December 2005.
Equally, some international partners such as the United States have said very strongly that the current constitutional process needs to be respected. Are they finally going to go further than issuing warnings and strongly-worded recommendations?
Opponents of the 2005 constitution
A lot of voices within the PPRD as well as others within the majority are already openly campaigning for a constitutional change, citing several reasons.
First of all, they consider the current constitution to be flawed because it was written under pressure from war lords and multinational companies. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the current constitution, is it appropriate to change it now, two years before the end of the current term? Why not wait until after the next elections and thus minimise the risk of a political crisis?
Secondly, some opponents of the current constitution maintain that President Kabila requires more time in order to complete his reconstruction projects. Thus, initiatives like “Kabila Désir” have been set up to demonstrate to the Congolese Diaspora all that the government has accomplished in the last few years. Their need to disseminate the truth is legitimate. However, the founders of this project have failed to say where the colossal funds required for such an undertaking are coming from. Are there not better ways to spend that amount of money? And how much longer is required to complete the reconstruction of the country? Lastly, is there not anyone other than President Kabila within the presidential majority who is capable of advancing the country’s reconstruction?
Finally, supporters of constitutional reform are presenting President Kabila as the only one capable of guaranteeing the security and unity of a country on the verge of chaos. They consider him, in fact, to be the only person able to control the national army today. But, in that case, would he not also be the only recipient of the distrust and suspicion of the people of East Congo following the death of Colonel Mamadou Ndala and General Bahuma? How can we build a lasting peace without the support of the inhabitants of this region? All men are mortal, what would happen to Congo if President Kabila passed away unexpectedly?
A country at a crossroads
The DRC is currently facing great uncertainty. No one is in a position to predict what will happen in the coming months. Everyone knows where the country is coming from but no one knows with any certainty where it is going.
The present constitution with its ups and downs has somehow allowed a kind of balance and stability. The majority of politicians and others have used it as a benchmark to play the democratic game. This constitution has brought a stability which has allowed economic progress and could be seen as the basis of general interest.
For the first time, the country is about to experience a peaceful devolution of power with all that this would bring in terms of the practice of democracy and a positive impact on Congolese perception. This unprecedented momentum requires everyone to answer to the substantive issues for the greater good.
Is now the right time to change the constitution considering the uncertainty this might create? What advantages would a new constitution bring? What message is this sending to those people who, a few years ago, decided to access power through peaceful means?
Politics is always a balance of power. If supporters of constitutional reform obtain the referendum they are looking for, what are the technical measures to be taken so that the result reflects the will of the people and does not unleash a new political crisis?
The aim of this text is to highlight the progress made during the last decade. DRC still has considerable challenges to overcome, especially in terms of security, and the country needs a calm political landscape to meet these goals. Should we make the choice today, to plunge the country into uncertainty? Where is the interest in jeopardising the progress made through such tremendous sacrifices?
The different players in this situation should respond conscientiously to all these questions, and ask themselves whether their responses are motivated by public interest.