DRC President Rules Out Third Term, Lessons for Zambia

Yesterday was the final day for candidates to submit their nominations for the DR Congo presidential elections. The country was on tenterhooks almost up until the last minute as citizens waited to see whether President Kabila would pursue a third term in office.

Throughout President Kabila’s second term in office there has been plenty of speculation with regards to his intentions. When the 2016 polls were delayed, protests followed, as the move appeared to be a play for time in order to find a way around the constitutional two term limit.

Opposition and civil society activists became concerned that Kabila’s allies were working up to establish legal justification for a third term on the basis that electoral procedures in the constitution had been altered since he was first elected in 2006 and that he could therefore run for two terms under the new rules. While the justification sounds flimsy, recent questionable appointments to the Constitutional Court were seen as an attempt to tilt the body in Kabila’s favour should he pursue a third term and a legal challenge ensue.

After two years of delays however, Kabila is now scheduled to step aside following the outcome of the elections scheduled for 23 December. Many challenges remain ahead for the country to ensure democratic elections, including the prevention of one of the presidential aspirants, Moise Katumbi, returning to the country. However, the fears that were Kabila to pursue a third term mass protests would result and security crackdowns lead to violence and further loss of life have been relieved somewhat.

As the question of President Lungu’s eligibility to run for office again in 2021 remains in the courts, what lessons are there for Zambia in all this? Firstly, uncertainty on the matter is destabilising. The courts must clear the problem up quickly and President Lungu should personally make clear his intentions. While in DR Congo President Kabila’s PM had clearly said the President would not seek a third term in office, such statements are best coming from the horse’s mouth if they are to be at all convincing. Secondly, the Constitution must be respected at all costs. It is not for President Lungu to personally rule on the matter but for the Constitutional Courts to determine, free from fear or influence.


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