Author Topic: DR Congo rethinks fiddling with constitution after Burkina revolt  (Read 1161 times)

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Offline mayya

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Agence France-Presse November 20, 2014 2:50pm

DR Congo rethinks fiddling with constitution after Burkina revolt


Politicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo keen to prolong President Joseph Kabila's hold on power are revising their plans after Burkina Faso's leader was deposed by a popular uprising, analysts said.

"That changed things, coming like a thunderbolt, a real warning signal for those in power," said a foreign diplomat in Kinshasa, the capital of the vast central African country.
Kabila supporters have instead begun to seek ways to delay the presidential election due to be held by November 2016, diplomats said.

The DRC is one of a handful of African nations whose leaders are considering amending their constitutions to allow them to seek a fresh term when their mandates expire, just as long-serving president Blaise Compaore tried to do in Burkina Faso, triggering the uprising.
The army that brought Compaore to power in 1987 largely sided with the protesters last month, with the second-in-command of the presidential guard taking power before stepping down for a transitional regime.

- 'Events were censored' -
"Kabila and his acolytes must have followed the situation very closely and not without worry. The way these events were censored or played down in official statements is pretty revealing," a Congolese analyst said, asking not to be named.

Andre Atundu, a former ambassador who handles communications for Kabila's coalition, said it was unlikely that Congolese people "blindly followed what happened in Burkina".

However, Atundu conceded that Compaore's downfall bore a lesson for all politicians, who "must be careful with the power given them by the people, since the people can take it back."
Kabila, 43, came to power in 2001 after the murder of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila at the height of a second, successive war ravaging the mineral-rich nation.

He was elected head of state in 2006, when a large UN mission to the former Belgian Congo helped organise the first democratic elections since independence in 1960.

While that poll was broadly considered free and fair, when Kabila won a second term in 2011 in elections marked by violence both the opposition and the international community disputed the outcome.

Many Congolese remember how security forces used live ammunition on demonstrators in the uproar after the election.

Constitutionally barred from running for a third term in 2016, Kabila has never spoken of his plans in public, but government members and other allies openly lobbied for a change to the basic law so he can stand again.

Parliament is poised to consider government proposals to amend part of the constitution covering provincial polls. Opposition politicians suspect the ruling coalition will seize the chance to go further.
The news from Burkina Faso has "at least for now seen the plan for constitutional revision set to one side," one diplomat said.

Parliamentary sources said deputies may instead debate a proposal to change the electoral law, made by an independent member of parliament.

Fidel Bafilemba, a local researcher for the Washington-based Enough Project, said some politicians began to back down from the idea of constitutional change even before the upheaval in Burkina.

- 'Good elections' -
Powerful members of the ruling class spoke out alongside the Roman Catholic church and foreign countries to warn of risks to democracy, Bafilemba said.

The authorities could delay the 2016 presidential election in several ways, notably by ordering a census of the population, estimated last July at 77 million by the US Central Intelligence Agency. In a nation two-thirds the size of western Europe, a census would take at least 18 months.

Some analysts and politicians argue that a census could fire up ethnic rivalries, particularly in the east, which has endured relentless conflict for more than 20 years.

The violence could be used as a pretext for stalling elections, analysts said. Some also see a recent budget increase for the army and police, and changes in military leadership, as signs of a preparation for a showdown.

The United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States all want the presidential poll held on time, but one diplomat said several countries could prove flexible if the outcome was "decent elections".