Botswana’s new leader urged President Joseph Kabila not to stand for re-election in DR Congo’s long delayed presidential poll, saying he has been in power longer than expected.
Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable democracies, is so far the only country in Africa to directly criticise Kabila.
Earlier this year, the Botswana government issued a statement openly blaming the president for Democratic Republic of Congo’s deteriorating humanitarian and security situation.
“The president of the DRC has stayed in power longer than the time that was expected,” President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took office this month, said during an interview with London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies streamed on its website.
“Hopefully we can get from (Kabila) a real commitment to not attempt to come back to power by whatever means.”
Kabila’s opponents suspect him of seeking a referendum to change Congo’s constitution to enable him to run for more than two terms, as the leaders of neighbouring Uganda, Rwanda and Congo Republic have.
He has neither confirmed nor denied this, but his refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016 triggered widespread street protests. It also emboldened armed groups, raising fears the country is sliding back into turmoil.
The election – now scheduled for December 23 – has been repeatedly delayed.
Congo emerged from a five-year war in 2003 during which millions were killed, mostly from hunger and disease, and militias and foreign armies exploited the country’s fabulous mineral wealth.
“The DRC is potentially the richest country in Africa and arguably one of the richest in the world,” said Masisi. “The world has failed the DRC.”
Other African countries are more cautious, encouraging progress toward elections but avoiding direct criticism of Kabila.