He concluded his essay with four questions about the future of Congolese democracy: Would Kabila resist authoritarian temptations; would the constitutional divisions between central and provincial powers be respected; would the parliamentary opposition be able to contribute constructively to governance; and would the legitimacy conferred byelections help to lead the DRC toward real democratization?1 This essay will look at what has happened in the four years since the elections in the context of these questions.Fifty years ago, on 30 June 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was granted independence from Belgium.
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The NSC’s resolutions were never implemented, however, as Mobutu ultimately refused to yield; he suspended the NSC and retained power until he fled the country in 1997.
The elder Kabila, a former pro-Lumumba guerrilla fighter who had trained alongside Che Guevara and his Cuban contingent in the hills of eastern Congo in the 1960s, did not embrace these aspirations for democracy.
In 1997, as the dictatorship was collapsing, the DRC (then known as Zaire) exploded into a complex civil war that also involved most of its neighboring countries.
In 2006, after nearly a decade of warfare had claimed millions of lives, the DRC held multiparty elections for the first time since 1965, electing the appointed interim president Joseph Kabila as president of the republic. Weiss wrote about the historic elections in these pages in April 2007.
Mvemba Phezo Dizolele is a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and an African Studies visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
He is the author of a forthcoming biography, Mobutu: The Rise and Fall of the Leopard King (2011).
The tension between thetwo political camps paralyzed the parliament and government, and Congofaced a dangerous stalemate.
Mobutu promised to restore peace and order and to return the country to democratic rule within five years.
He eventually reinstated Kasavubu as president, but only under international pressure.
The second time around, Mobutu had no intention of returning power to the civilians.
In fact, Mobutu’s successor, longtime rebel leader Laurent Désiré Kabila, suspended the constitution and ruled by decree until his assassination by one of his bodyguards on 16 January 2001.