Joseph Kabila, the outgoing president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has said he plans to stay in politics and does not rule out running again for the top job in 2023.
Kabila, who will be stepping down after long-delayed elections are held on December 23, told Reuters news agency on Sunday that he wanted to protect his “many accomplishments” by remaining in politics.
“There is still a long journey ahead and there are still other chapters that will be written before we can write the history books,” he said.
“Why don’t we wait for 2023 … to envision anything,” said a relaxed, smiling Kabila in a rare interview at the presidential palace, wearing a dark blue suit and tie and sporting his signature greying goatee.
“In life as in politics, I don’t rule out anything.”
Speaking to The Associated Press news agency, Kabila said he would likely remain in the role of adviser for now: “If anyone wants advice from me, I hope they come and ask.”
The 47-year-old was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his constitutional mandate. But the election to replace him has been delayed repeatedly, igniting protests in which dozens were killed.
The upcoming elections will mark the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power and an end to Kabila’s rule that began in 2001 after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.
Kabila has hand-picked loyalist Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his candidate to run under the banner of the ruling coalition. Shadary is under European Union sanctions for his alleged involvement in human rights violations.
Kabila called the sanctions against Shadary “unjust and illegal”.
Shadary or whoever is elected “will be the president of this country and not the president of Europe. God forbid,” Kabila said, laughing.
Opinion polls show Shadary far behind popular leading opposition figures [File: Reuters]
Opinion polls show little-known Shadary far behind popular leading opposition figures, raising speculation that he is merely there to serve one term before Kabila returns.
Elections expected to be difficult
The delay in elections has coincided with a breakdown in security across much of the mineral-rich country of 40 million people.
Armed rebels are fighting over land and resources in the east near the border with Uganda and Rwanda.
International observers say a lack of security will make holding elections difficult in the vast equatorial country and create an opportunity for Kabila’s coalition to cheat, especially with the use of new voting machines that will be used for the first time.
Kabila said the DRC was ready to hold fair elections.
“We intend to make the elections as close to perfection as they can possibly be,” he said.
“Observers who think that the elections will not be free and fair, I am yet to see those observers come and state where they think we are lacking.”
Kabila was catapulted to power at age 29, after his father’s assassination during a civil war that raged from 1998 to 2003 and killed five million people, mostly through hunger and disease.
He promised to restore peace and end corruption. Today, he stands by his legacy, despite leaving behind a fragile economy and multiple protracted armed conflicts that have forced millions to flee their homes.