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.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

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