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Waiting for Democracy in Congo

Why Kabila's Retirement Announcement Offers Little Grounds for Optimism

Joseph Kabila addresses the UN in New York, September 2017. Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

On August 8, 2018, Lambert Mende, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s combative minister of communication and media, stepped up to the microphone at a press conference and made a remarkable announcement: that the country’s embattled president, Joseph Kabila, will not seek a third term. Kabila’s political coalition, Mende said, had chosen Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the secretary-general of the president’s party, as its candidate for presidential elections scheduled for this December.

Elections in Congo were supposed to have been held in 2016, according to the country’s constitution, and Kabila, having served two terms, would have been ineligible to run in them. But Kabila kept delaying a vote and remained vague about whether he would stand as a candidate when one did occur. So his government’s recent announcement came as a welcome surprise. Until last week, the ruling coalition had given no indication that the president would step

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