Joseph Kabila will step down as DR Congo’s president after 17 years

Kabila: I’m out.
Kabila: I’m out.
Image: Reuters/Kenny Katombe/File Photo
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After years of uncertainty, president Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo will not run for re-election.

The government announced former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary will be the nominee for the ruling coalition’s party in the upcoming December polls. It ends speculation over whether Kabila would run again or who would replace him as leader of the central African nation if he stepped down.

Kabila came to power in 2001 after his father, Laurent, was assassinated. Subsequently, he won elections in 2006 and 2011. He is, however, constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. His opponents have accused him of clinging to power, and the political standoff since 2016 has seen riots and violence break across the country leaving dozens dead. The government has also blocked the internet and clamped down on social media to quell dissent. Amid the instability, investors in DR Congo’s lucrative cobalt industry begun looking elsewhere. The December 2018 elections are also coming two years behind schedule.

Speculation about a replacement for Kabila came yesterday after the 47-year-old leader held a meeting with senior coalition members at his farm outside the capital Kinshasa. In recent days, candidates have also been trickling back into the country to submit their candidature ahead of the national electoral commission’s deadline today. These include the ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was recently acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

But one key candidate still remains locked out of the contest: millionaire businessman and opposition leader Moise Katumbi has been denied entry into the country both through air and land to register for the polls. “In trying to block me, they want to deny the rights of the Congolese to a real election. I will fight,” he said.