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Political history​

From the day of the arguably ill-prepared independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the tensions between the powerful leaders of the political elite, such as Joseph Kasa VubuPatrice LumumbaMoise TshombeJoseph Mobutu and others, jeopardize the political stability of the new state. From Tshombe's secession of the Katanga, to the assassination of Lumumba, to the two coups d'état of Mobutu, the country has known periods of true nationwide peace, but virtually no period of genuine democratic rule.

The Mobutu era

The Regime of Marshall Mobutu Sese Seko lasted 32 years (1965–1997), during which all but the first seven years the country was named Zaire. The dictatorial regime operated as a one-party-state, which saw most of the powers concentrated between President Mobutu, who was simultaneously the head of the state-party (Popular Movement of the Revolution), and a series of essentially rubber-stamping institutions.

One particularity of the Regime was the claim to be thriving for an authentic system, different from Western, or Soviet influences. This lasted roughly between the establishment of Zaire in 1971, and the official beginning of the transition towards democracy, on 24 April 1990. This was true at the regular people's level as everywhere else. People were ordered by law to drop their Western Christian names; the titles Mr. and Mrs. were abandoned for the male and female versions of the French word for "citizen"; Men were forbidden to wear suits, and women to wear pants. At the institutional level, many of the institutions also changed denominations, but the end result was a system that borrowed from both systems:

  • The party Central Committee: The country being a one-party-state, this committee had a higher position in the institutional make-up than the government or cabinet. It had both executive oversight authority, and in practice, binding legislative authority, as it dictated the party platform. The committee was headed by Mobutu. The Vice-President of the committee was essentially the country's Vice-President, without the succession rights.

  • The Executive Council: known elsewhere as the Government or the Cabinet. This was the executive authority in the country, made of State Commissioners (known elsewhere as ministers). For a long period of time, Mobutu was the sole leader of the Executive Council. He eventually started appointing First State Commissioners (known elsewhere as Prime ministers), with largely coordinating powers, and very little executive power. The last "First State Commissioner" was Kengo Wa Dondo.

  • The Legislative Council: essentially the rubber-stamp Parliament, it was made up of People Commissioners (known elsewhere as MPs), who were sometimes elected, as individual members of the party, and always on the party platform.

  • The Supreme Court: The only seemingly independent branch was the judiciary. But in effect, it was subordinate to a Judicial Council over which the regime had a very strong influence.


Every corporation, whether financial or union, as well as every division of the administration, were set up as branches of the party, the CEOs, Union leaders, and division directors being sworn-in as section presidents of the party. Every aspect of life was regulated to some degree by the party, and the will of its founding-president, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Most of the petty aspects of the regime disappeared after 1990, and the beginning of the democratic transition. The latter was intended to be fairly short-lived, but Mobutu's power plays dragged it in length, to ultimately 1997, when the forces-led by Laurent Kabila eventually toppled the regime, after a 9-month-long successful military campaign.


The Kabilas' governments and war

The government of former president Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent Kabila in May 1997, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda. They were later to turn against Kabila and backed a rebellion against him in August 1998. Troops from ZimbabweAngolaNamibiaChad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups, but fighting continued.

Under Laurent Kabila's regime, all executive, legislative, and military powers were first vested in the President, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The judiciary was independent, with the president having the power to dismiss or appoint. The president was first head of a 26-member cabinet dominated by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo(ADFL). Towards the end of the 90s, Laurent Kabila created and appointed a Transitional Parliament, with a seat in the buildings of the former Katanga Parliament, in the southern town of Lubumbashi, in a move to unite the country, and to legitimate his regime. Kabila was assassinated on 16 January 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state ten days later.

The younger Kabila continued with his father's Transitional Parliament, but overhauled his entire cabinet, replacing it with a group of technocrats, with the stated aim of putting the country back on the track of development, and coming to a decisive end of the Second Congo War. In October 2002, the new president was successful in getting occupying Rwandan forces to withdraw from eastern Congo; two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a Transition Government, the make-up of which would allow representation for all negotiating parties. Two founding documents emerged from this: The Transition Constitution, and the Global and Inclusive Agreement, both of which describe and determine the make-up and organization of the Congolese institutions, until planned elections in July 2006, at which time the provisions of the new constitution, democratically approved by referendum in December 2005, will take full effect and that is how it happened.


Under the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement, signed on 17 December 2002, in Pretoria, there was to be one President and four Vice-Presidents, one from the government, one from the Rally for Congolese Democracy, one from the MLC, and one from civil society. The position of Vice-President expired after the 2006 elections.


Present situation


After being for three years (2003–06) in the interregnum between two constitutions, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is now under the regime of the Constitution of the Third Republic. The constitution, adopted by referendum in 2005, and promulgated by President Joseph Kabila in February 2006, establishes a decentralized semi-presidential republic, with a separation of powers between the three branches of government - executive, legislative and judiciary, and a distribution of prerogatives between the central government and the provinces.

As of 8 August 2017 there are 54 political parties legally operating in the Congo.[5]


On 15 December 2018 US State Department announced it had decided to evacuate its employees’ family members from Democratic Republic of Congo just before the Congolese elections to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila

Democratic Republic of the Congo


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