One of America’s renowned Federalists James Madison once said that “The ultimate authority resides in the people, and that if the federal government got too powerful and overstepped its authority, then the people would develop plans of resistance and resort to arms”.
Instead of witnessing democratic consolidation, what is politically emerging in many Africa states is democratic backslide. And at the center of this democratic backslide, there seem to be ‘the rise of many Adolf Hitlers’- initially humble Presidents who, after being faithfully elected into power, transform themselves into authoritarian leaders. Most of them are not yet totalitarians like Adolf Hitler; they elected authoritarians who use democracy into power, but brutally silence the masses and oppress everyone once elected. By using the lenses of the definition and features of authoritarianism, let us critically discuss and analyze Joseph Kabila, the President of DR Congo as follows:
Authoritarians are traditional dictators who manifest in different forms: Authoritarian rulers justify their self-serving rule on a combination of “myth” (e.g. religious divine right, personal charisma, heredity/royal birth) and “might” (e.g. brutal force, police terror). Although earlier elected democratically, Kabila is now a true authoritarian ruler as his continued stay is illegal but only survives through use of police brutality and military terror as his term ended on 27th November, 2016.
There is no mass bloodshed like holocaust Nazi Germany but serious human rights violations and no respect for opponents’ life: Since 2016 to date, state forces have mercilessly used live bullets to kill Congolese political protesters and critics of Joseph Kabila on the streets of Kinshasa and elsewhere as state enemies.
Imposition of less or strict censorship of press and media: In DR Congo, state media is terribly biased and only reports about Kabila and his officials while the independent media is highly regulated and restricted. As we speak, the Congolese opposition have no access to ‘public/state media’ houses nor enjoy the same privileges and rights with controlled private media.
Outlawing or restriction on the operations of opposition political parties: In authoritarian DR Congo, political competition is hated, manipulated, controlled and silenced so that Kabila does not have rivals or serious political competitors. In DR Congo, only the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy is allowed to enjoy freedom of assembly and movements. The opposition are highly oppressed and controlled by the DR Congo state police through the colonial Public Order Act to restrict and suffocate them.
Covert or overt control and manipulation of the judiciary and courts: In authoritarian DR Congo, the judiciary is a legal slave of the executive. Judges and magistrates all fear the President Kabila or are constantly manipulated by his powerful party elites. As the judiciary is not independent, DR Congo has no meaningful rule of law.
Suppression of civil rights and fundamental freedoms of the citizens: Under Kabila, Congolese are subjects and not citizens as he denies them freedom of expression, assembly, movement, participation or sovereign right to choose their own government as expected in any democracy. Kabila rules using police brutality and state oppression of the innocent citizens.
Less or no meaningful, fair and credible elections: Authoritarian Kabila came into power after the death of his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila on 26 January 2001. While he manipulated the constitution and crookedly won previous elections, he was legally supposed to leave power on 27th November, 2016. His continued stay is illegal hence continued civil unrests, bloodshed and migration exodus. As we speak, no one knows when DR Congo will see the next election.
Existence of a weaker legislature without checks and balances on government: In dictatorship DR Congo, the legislature is a rubber stamp of the powerful Kabila. He runs it at will and manipulates the Congolese legislature in all aspects.
Rampart corruption and increase in abuse of public resources. While Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled Zaire from 1965 to 1997 allegedly stole up to US$4 billion while in office, Kabila has equally kept this kleptocracy legacy with DR Congo witnessing rampart looting and plundering of public resources through the presidency. Authoritarian Kabila rules in his self-interest and places his self-interest above the interests of the Congolese.
They do not impose a mandatory utopia ideology on masses but leave personal beliefs and private life for citizens untouched: As many Authoritarians, Kabila claim to be unifying DR Congo. To do so, he is not imposing an integrated official ideology over the masses but manipulates them to exercise freedom of conscience to perpetuate his oppressive ruler-ship. Since he knows that he is in control and his power is not threatened, Kabila does not impose and transform Congolese into dogmatic mandatory ideologies or mass uniform beliefs and behavior.
In conclusion, one of the great political theorists of the Medieval age, British Political Theorist, Sidney Algernon, in 1698, said that, “God leaves to man the choice of forms in government …He who institutes, may also abrogate…General consent is the ground of all just governments…the only ends for which governments are constituted and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection”.
With the empirical case of ripe Adolf Hitler-Kabila maliciously raping democracy, promoting and completely killing good governance in DR Congo, it is clear that democracy is heavily under attack in this country as the Congolese President only wants to use it as a means to power, but has violated and quickly ignored the principles of democracy to respect and maintain it. Today, it is factual to generalize that there is no democracy in DR Congo and Kabila is constitutionally an illegal authoritarian ruler who has used military power to capture state sovereignty and enslave his former citizens.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer and Consultant.