Amendments of DR Congo constitution called “undemocratic”

By Great Lakes Voice team

Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament by January 05, 2011 approved eight constitutional amendments, including one that will eliminate the possibility of a second round of presidential elections – a move opposition members have denounced as undemocratic.

Both legislative chambers agreed to the amendments, which will increase the power of the president, with more than the required three-fifths majority after a week of debate. The changes now await the signature of President Joseph Kabila.

Thirty-nine-year-old Kabila, who was elected in 2006 in Congo’s first democratic presidential vote in more than 40 years, faces a difficult re-election campaign this year. Armed conflicts and extreme poverty continue to plague the mineral-rich country, which is struggling to overcome four decades of dictatorship and war.

The move has triggered up opposition legislators to walk out of the parliament building during the voting of the amendments. The opposition has said the amendments of the constitution are not democratic and not in the interests of the common people.

Of 504 deputies and senators present at the vote on January 05, 485 were in favor of the amendment, 8 opposed and 11 abstained. The total possible pool was 608.

Moise Nyarugabo, a prominent opposition senator, said that the amendment is the dearth of democracy in the Democratic republic of Congo which is still in its establishment.

“The move is in favor of Joseph Kabila’s consolidation of absolute power, and Kabala is not confident of the coming election. This amendment which was protested by my fellow opposition politicians since at the first time, and now Kabila has successive in murdering democracy,” Nyarugabo told our reporter in Kinshasa

Boost of Kabila rule

The elimination of a second presidential election round will save the country money and “avoid the risk of undermining peace, national unity and the young Congolese democracy,” Kabila said in a statement he sent to parliament this past week. Without a run-off, a presidential candidate could be elected with only a plurality of the vote.

Kabila asked for the changes to “fill in and clarify” parts of the 2006 constitution that are “ill-adapted to the political and socio-economic reality of DRC,” according to the statement sent to parliament. The opposition boycotted today’s vote, citing procedural irregularities.

In 2006, dozens died in the streets of Kinshasa when forces loyal to Kabila fought with supporters of his main rival, former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. Bemba is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

With Bemba sidelined, Kabila’s main opposition will probably be Etienne Tshisekedi, 78, head of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party. Vital Kamerhe, the architect of Kabila’s first campaign and former president of the national assembly, may also run.

The other amendments ratified will give the president the power to dissolve provincial assemblies, fire governors and call referenda. Congo’s formerly independent office of the prosecutor will now answer to the ministry of justice.

Another amendment will delay the division of the country into 26 provinces, compared with the current system of 11.

Un-functioning state

Kabila’s army has been accused of some criminal networks that are exploiting natural minerals illegally abandoning the basic service of security that the state would provide.

Kabila’s government is still lagging behind in delivering basic services of the state and fighting corruption, bribery, nepotism, and abuse of power.

The Congolese government has failed to end conflict in Eastern Congo in the Provinces of Northern and Southern Kivu.

Foreign policy

Despite the setbacks in DRC government to deliver services and create a state that gives opportunity to all Congolese citizens, Kabila’s government has been successful to play their cards well in terms of bringing China and other countries to boost infrastructure in Congo.

Kabila’s government has also managed to live peacefully with its neighbors, who have been conducting military campaigns in Congo, and others who have been involved in the illegal exploitations of minerals.

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