Congolese politicians scramble for control as violence ramps up again

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still struggling to bring an end to months of torrid political wrangling.

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Ever since the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, began to delay and obstruct scheduled elections that could eject him from office, the country has been stuck in political limbo. And while a peace deal to set a proper plan for the election has now been agreed, events are still moving at a dizzying pace.

First, the Pope and the church dramatically intervened to broker the deal, which (at least in theory) guarantees that Kabila will step down after the much-delayed election is held in 2018.

Then Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the opposition umbrella movement Rassemblement (the Rally), suddenly died. Soon afterwards, Moïse Katumbe, a presidential candidate who fled the DRC after being sentenced to three years in prison, returned to Kinshasa for Tshisekedi’s funeral. Everyone is still guessing what his intentions really are.

As Congolese politics gets ever more complex and fraught, violence and oppression have become the norm across swathes of this massive country. Regrettably, the movements and forces behind it are too numerous to survey in much detail – but a few stand out.

Central Congo is seeing intense fighting between the state and the followers of the late rebel leader Kamwina Nsapu; hundreds of people have been killed and many more displaced. The violence has been condemned by the country’s UN Stabilisation Mission, but to little effect. It is more than matched in the east of the country, where various Maï-Maï rebel groups are still furious with the Congolese army for arresting their leader, David Maranata, at the start of 2017. They have been stepping up their attacks with a vengeance ever since.

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