Frontera News Exclusive: Fighting for the Democratic Republic of Congo

In the capital of the world’s biggest democracy, a campaign is building to stop another African president igniting violent conflict by extending his term beyond constitutional limits.

The Democratic Republic of Congo – sitting on the planet’s largest reserves of cobalt, a mineral used in smartphones and laptops – is among the poorest of nations. Peace remains fragile after a civil war in which millions died between 1998 and 2003. As things stand, the situation is unlikely to improve.

President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since succeeding his father during the civil war in 2001, is attempting to circumvent a constitution forbidding him a third term by stalling elections due this year.

Kabila has called for a delay in order to broaden voter registration and raise election funds. Congo’s electoral commission, CENI, has suggested a minimum timeframe of 13 months and 10 days is needed. Some 82% of the 30.7 million populace is registered, according to CENI.

Congo’s largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), has said it hopes to participate in a national dialogue announced by Kabila in November. Other opposition parties are more skeptical. They’ve formed a coalition to protest the delay, starting with a demonstration last month in commemoration of 40 people killed a year earlier when officials opened fire on campaigners against Kabila extending his term of office.

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The United Nations reported a 64% increase in human rights violations in the DRC last year. Government officials committed 49% of the 3,847 violations, which included 294 extrajudicial killings. Of those, 260 were linked to disputes over the election process.

In the hope he won’t be added to such statistics, John Bosco Nkumunue has taken refuge in India, where he’s building support for the security team he says he’ll need to return and fight for election as leader of the Party for the Union of People. Frontera’s Managing Editor Gavin Serkin spoke with him in New Delhi.

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