Image by Gabe Joselow, via Wikimedia Commons. Accessed 17.04.2018
The use of intimidation and violence as a political tool is neither unusual nor particularly sophisticated in the DRC. Throughout his reign, President Joseph Kabila has consistently used violence to maintain his control. The systematic persecution, intimidation and harassment of political opponents, journalists, human rights activists – and anyone else perceived as a viable threat to Kabila’s presidency – has become routine as the President battles to remain in power.
While the strategic placement of trusted allies in the country’s security forces has ensured that they remain at the President’s ‘disposal’ to secure the country from threats; there are indications that pro-Kabila stakeholders are delegating aspects of ‘maintaining order’ to illicit networks. In a worst case scenario, this informal use of intimidation, through unaccountable structures, could ostensibly be used to absolve the government of culpability.
- The DRC has suffered from widespread unrest since late 2016, when Kabila failed to relinquish power at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit. Since then, there has been a permanent state of political crisis, which is in itself acting to fuel further instability.
- There is little question that this unrest is being aggravated by government forces to break up opposition protests (and generally maintain a watch over the activities of any opposition voices), as President Kabila seeks to use instability as a pretext to delay the upcoming elections.
- More worryingly, however, are indications that pro-government interests – ostensibly linked to the President – are informally employing the services of illicit actors to actually provoke further unrest.