Kabila's Kabuki? Elections in the DRC

Kabila's Kabuki? Elections in the DRC

Over the past few days, there’s been an international chorus of praise for Joseph Kabila, who has served as president of the resource-rich, war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo since the assassination of his father 17 years ago. The United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, and the United States have all welcomed his decision to abide by his country’s constitutional term limits rather than seek a third presidential term in December.


Now for the cautionary caveats from fellow Signalista Willis Sparks

There are reasons to doubt Kabila’s commitment to a peaceful democratic transfer of power. First, Kabila’s second term actually ended in 2016. His decision to delay the election to replace him has triggered protests and deadly violence already.

Second, the coalition that Kabila leads has chosen former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate, a man known primarily for two things: his excessive use of force against protesters and his personal loyalty to Kabila. Shadary, under EU sanctions for his role in Kabila’s government, may well allow Kabila to continue to call shots from behind the scenes.

Do voters have other good options? Given that it costs $100,000 to file a presidential candidacy in the DRC (where per capita GDP is below $500), the options are predictably limited.

Shadary’s main election rival is likely to be former Vice President and warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, who returned to the country just two weeks ago after the International Criminal Court overturned his conviction on charges of murder, rape, and pillaging. Bemba had already served 10 years in prison in The Hague, and Kabila’s party will challenge his right to run.

Still, even with all these caveats, Kabila’s decision to stand down will be good news for a country that has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence. If, that is, he honors it both in spirit and in practice.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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