Africa’s second largest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), will be split into two if incumbent President Joseph Kabila does not step down at the end of his constitutional two-five year term in November, a new rebel group in the country has announced.
Alexis Byicaza Sebatware, an alleged leader of a new rebel group forming in the eastern DRC called Les Forces Novatrices pour Union et la Démocratie Congolaise (Innovative Forces for Union and Congolese Democracy), said his group would take up arms if President Kabila insists on standing for a third term.
According to Sebatware, Mr Kabila, whose country is supposed to go to the polls in November, recently met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, to seek their support for his ‘third term’ project.
“We know his plan. But we have given him an ultimatum to organise elections and hand over power. If he doesn’t, we are to pick up arms against his government and our main aim will be to split the country into two independent states because he has refused to respect the Constitution,” Sebatware was quoted as saying.
President Kabila faces protests and resistance from several quarters including in eastern DRC, where his onetime ally and now rival Moise Katumbi, enjoys huge support. Mr Katumbi, a wealthy and popular businessman and leader of opposition, remains in exile after he left the country in May to seek treatment following an attack by security forces. Meanwhile, analysts of regional geopolitics see President Kabila’s quick successive visits to Uganda and Rwanda as a strategic move to pacify eastern DR Congo and use it as a stepping stone to extend his rule. Sources indicate that with resistance mounting in eastern DR Congo, President Kabila is counting on Rwanda to help contain the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese who are up in arms against his government.
With the issue of M23 remaining in the way, President Kabila fears that a volatile eastern DR Congo would threaten his chances of seeking another term in office. Hundreds of M23 former fighters remain in Rwanda and Uganda, almost four years after an agreement was reached to repatriate them and reintegrate them back in the two countries.
According to sources privy to the talks between the three heads of state, the Congolese president promised to address the matter ‘with finality’.
Mr Kabila reportedly promised Rwanda and Uganda ‘full co-operation’ in dealing with the two rebel groups — Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
In Rwanda, Presidents Kabila and Kagame committed to strengthening mutual efforts to revitalise bilateral relations, including the enhancing of diplomatic relations between Rwanda and the DRC.
Rwanda and Uganda were accused by the UN Group of Experts of backing the rebels who waged war in eastern Congo in April 2012, even though both countries denied the accusations.
Indeed, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC have been at loggerheads at different points in the past 22 years, despite the former two working together to install Laurent Desire Kabila, after deposing Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. Joseph Kabila took over in 2001 after his father was assassinated.
Meanwhile, the US has warned that President Kabila’s decision to hold onto power will escalate further violence in the already volatile mineral-rich nation.
“Countries where incumbents try to change the rules to stay in power are five times more likely to face violence and instability,” Thomas Perriello, the State Department’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa said last week.