Nationwide Poll Warns of a Gloomy Future for DR Congo
The vast majority of Congolese people questioned in a new poll believe their country is going in the wrong direction and are expecting more strife in the coming months.
The poll by the New York University-based Congo Research Group and a Congolese polling agency, the Bureau d’Études, de Recherches, et Consulting International (BERCI), found that 77 percent of the 2,301 people surveyed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in February and April 2017 shared that gloomy outlook.
Other results included:
- 69 percent said President Joseph Kabila should have resigned at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit on December 19, 2016;
- 83 percent support the political agreement struck on December 31 to overcome the country’s political impasse;
- The Catholic Church, which mediated the deal, enjoys an 84 percent approval rating;
- In February, 72 percent of respondents blamed the political impasse on Kabila’s ruling coalition, while 27 percent blamed the Rassemblement opposition coalition.
The New Year’s Eve agreement includes a commitment that presidential elections will be held by the end of 2017, and no attempts would be made to hold a referendum or change the constitution to allow the president to run for a third term.
Since the agreement was signed, members of the ruling coalition have repeatedly invoked the possibility of holding a referendum. Soon after the deal was signed, senior officials from Kabila’s ruling coalition said they had signed the agreement “with reservations,” and some asserted the agreement wasn’t constitutional because it explicitly prevents a referendum to change the constitution. In late January, an anonymous source close to Kabila told Jeune Afrique that the “hypothesis [of a referendum] has to be seriously discussed.” On April 16, the North Kivu provincial president of the moderate opposition party Union of Nationalists (UNANA) called for the holding of a referendum instead of elections by the end of the year, in light of budgetary constraints.
Most recently, on May 13, 2017, the ruling coalition’s spokesperson André Alain Atundu called on the country’s political class not to take away the “right [of the Congolese people] to express themselves through a referendum,” following a meeting of the coalition in Kinshasa. In recent weeks, Télé 50, a pro-government television station, has been showing advertisements with images of violence in several African countries, including Congo, juxtaposed by images of seemingly peaceful referenda in neighboring Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The narrator states that people in these countries “privileged their homelands.”
The poll also found that the youth movement Struggle for Change (LUCHA) enjoys a 65 percent approval rating, as government repression against the group continues. On May 15, four LUCHA members were arrested in front of the office of the electoral commission (CENI) in Mbuji-Mayi, Kasai Oriental province, during a peaceful protest calling for publication of the electoral calendar. They were released on May 21. Fourteen members of another youth movement, Collectif 2016, were arrested on May 17, while protesting bad road conditions in their neighborhood in Kinshasa. Thirteen were released two days later, while one of the activists, Rossy Mukendi, is still being held at a military intelligence detention center in Kinshasa, without access to his family or lawyer.
A large majority – 72 percent – of all survey respondents said they approved of the targeted sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union against senior government and security force officials last year. The EU and US are discussing new sanctions, which might be announced in the coming days or weeks.
The CRG/BERCI poll provides a rare and insightful glimpse into Congolese public opinion. The poll suggests that there would be strong public support for salvaging the New Year’s Eve deal and ensuring the organization of credible presidential elections by year’s end, while there might be considerable opposition to a referendum process to change the constitution.