The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s turbulent election season just got wilder. Just as the DRC’s leading opposition figure, Moïse Katumbi, was returning to his country after months of exile, his plane was turned around. Bloomberg:
Democratic Republic of Congo authorities refused to clear a plane carrying presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi to land in the central African nation amid campaigns for national elections.“I wanted to return to my country and participate, despite threats of arrest made against me by the Minister of Justice,” Katumbi said in an e-mailed statement. […]Etienne Tshisekedi, 83, another opposition leader, returned to Congo on July 27 for the first time in over two years to be greeted by tens of thousands of supporters. During a rally on Sunday in the capital, Kinshasa, he called on President Joseph Kabila to step down.
This setback for Katumbi comes on the heels of two dueling rallies in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital and, with more than 11 million inhabitants, its most populous city.First, the government held a massive rally on Friday for the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila. Many of his supporters want him to follow the example of presidents-for-life in neighboring countries and amend the constitution to allow for a third term.
Congo is a vast country with a horrible history, really, and it requires statesmen and stateswomen to come together and try to hammer out some agreement. But it goes beyond an election; it goes beyond trying to stop Joseph Kabila from extending his rule in Congo. It is about trying to make a nation out of a vast country that has never really been a nation throughout history. It’s been a territory where everybody has come to plunder and take out resources but has never really become a nation that you can call a nation in a proper meaning of a nation.
Nation-building in the DRC is a project that will last decades, if not centuries—assuming the massive country doesn’t split up first. It’s worth reading the whole interview to get a sense of the challenges the DRC faces, both in this election season and in the years ahead.