Democratic Republic of the Congo Political System

Political system

Short for CG by Abbreviationfinder, Congo-Kinshasa is a republic led by a president with great powers. The relative democratization that has taken place since 2003 has given rise to a number of political parties, but issues and ideologies play little role. In the eastern provinces, armed rebel groups are still the most important power players. Disputes continue despite the fact that there is a formal peace.

After the civil wars of 1996–1997 and 1998–2003 (see Modern History), Congo was ruled by a transitional government led by Joseph Kabila. In 2006, a new constitution came into force, the first free elections of more than 40 years were held and at the end of the year Kabila took office as elected president. He also won the presidential election in 2011 even though the election results were questioned by both the opposition and foreign observers. In January 2019, however, a change of power occurred when opposition politician Félix Tshisekedi took over the post after another disputed election. However, Kabila retained a strong position of power as his party alliance dominated the National Assembly.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Democratic Republic of the Congo for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

The president is head of state and commander-in-chief and is elected in general elections for five years. They can be re-elected once and must be at least 30 years. The President has great power and is not responsible to Parliament. After a constitutional change in 2011, the presidential election takes place in a single round, where the one with the most votes wins.

Parliament consists of the National Assembly, whose 500 members are elected for a five-year term, and the Senate with 108 members appointed by the provincial assemblies. The Prime Minister is taken from the largest party of the National Assembly. The President has the right to dissolve Parliament in the event of a serious conflict between Parliament and the Government.

The country now has 25 provinces alongside the capital Kinshasa which forms its own province. The provincial assemblies also appoint governors, who are on a five-year term.

Historically, Congo-Kinshasa has been a centralized country on paper. In practice, however, the ties between the capital and the more remote parts of the country have been weak, which created uncertainty about the powers of local leaders and contributed to distrust of the central power.

An important point of the new constitution is that all persons belonging to a people group who lived in the country at independence in 1960 are recognized as citizens. Thus, it is stated that the Rwandan-bred Tutsi-banyamulenge are Congolese (see also Population and Language).

Political parties

In 2019 there were over 600 registered parties, but it is difficult to distinguish any ideological divides between them. Most parties have an ethnic or regional identity and few of them are represented throughout the country. The parties are often built around strong leaders.

The leading political party is President Joseph Kabila’s organization The People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (Party for the Reconstruction and Democracy, PPRD). Together with a number of other parties, the PPRD formed a collaboration called the Presidential Majority (Majority Presidential, MP, or Alliance pour la Majorité Presidential, AMP). MPs included, among others, the People’s Party for Peace and Democracy (Party of the Puple for La Pix el la Democracy, PPPD), the Social Renewal Movement (Movement Social Pour Le Renouveau, MSR) and the United Lumumbist Party (Parti lumumbiste unifié, Palu).

Ahead of the 2018 elections, Kabilatrogenic forces formed a new alliance of the Congo common front (Front commun pour le Congo, FCC). When Joseph Kabila could not stand for re-election, the FCC was represented in the presidential election by former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who came in third place in the election. However, the FCC gained its own majority in the National Assembly.

Leading opposition party from the 1980s was the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la democratie et le progrès social, UDPS), which for many years was led by Etienne Tshisekedi (he died in 2017). The UDPS boycotted the elections in 2006 but participated in what was held in 2011. The party then became the second largest and Tshisekedi came in second place in the presidential election with almost a third of the votes. In the 2018 election, the party was represented by Etienne Tshisekedi’s son Félix, who has also taken over as leader of the UDPS. Together with Vital Kamerhe, he formed the Alliance Towards Change (Cap pour le changement, Cach). Camerhe Party of the Union of the Congolese Nation (Union pour la nation congolaise, UNC) was formed in 2010. Kamerhe, who was previously the president of the National Assembly, founded the party after leaving Kabila’s camp in protest against being allowed by Rwandan troops to enter Congo-Kinshasa in 2009 (see Modern History).

In late summer 2019, the FCC and Cach formed a government coalition.

In 2016, several opposition parties formed an alliance Assembly (Le Rassemblement) to put pressure on Kabila to announce elections, in accordance with the constitution. However, internal contradictions led to the alliance breaking into three different factions in March 2017. Several of the parties from there formed a new alliance in 2018, Lamuka (Awake), whose 2018 presidential candidate was a relatively unknown politician and businessman Martin Fayulu, who, according to himself, but also the influential Catholic Church, was the one who actually won the presidential election.

In the 2006 election, the unifying force of the opposition was the former rebel force Movement for Congo’s Liberation (Mouvement du libération du Congo, MLC) (see also Modern History). MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba spent ten years in a cell in The Hague but was released in 2018 and returned to his home country (see below). However, he was not allowed to run for office in the 2018 presidential election.

In the protests against Kabila’s attempt to stay in power, an increasing amount of space has been taken by a group called the Fight for Change (Lutte pour le Changement, Lucha), which mainly consists of students. It works with non-violent methods, collective leadership and emphasizes its financial independence.

Rebel groups

Several militia groups are involved in the conflicts that are mainly going on in eastern Congo-Kinshasa, and all parties, including the government army, are guilty of serious abuses against the civilian population. It is about brutal murders, torture, rape, mutilation, looting, destruction of property and displacement. Several of the groups have more or less clear connections to neighboring countries, mainly Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda. The background is contradictions between Hutus and Tutsis, which previously led to war and ethnic cleansing, mainly in Rwanda and Burundi. After the 1994 Rwanda genocide (see Rwanda: Modern History), at least one million Hutus fled to eastern Congo-Kinshasa. Hutumilisen Interahamwe – and members of the deposed Rwandan army – then made raids from the refugee camps into Rwanda. Struggles also erupted in Congo-Kinshasa, where new rebel groups said they wanted to defend the Congolese Tutsis attacked from several directions (see Modern History). The unrest also triggered the uprising against long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo-Kinshasa. It was not long before the neighboring countries’ armies crossed the border (see further Modern History). The chaos that arose in the east in 1994 triggered a major regional war and the conflicts have not yet completely subsided. The ongoing fighting is largely about control over natural resources, mainly minerals.

The democratic forces for Rwanda’s liberation (Forces Democratique pour la libération du Rwanda, FDLR) largely consist of ethnic Hutus from Rwanda. FDLR is a successor to Interahamwe and other hutumilists operating in Congo. Repeated attempts to disarm FDLR have failed even though the number of members has decreased. The UN estimated in 2019 that FDLR had between 500 and 600 active members, about a tenth compared to 2008. FDLR controls some mineral resources but has been pushed away from the larger deposits. The Milis Group also earns large income by taxing the local population. It has also been identified as one of the most arduous groups in the conflict in the Kivu provinces and is accused, among other things, of brutal mass rape (see also Social conditions). The Congo-Kinshasa government and army have over the years alternately regarded the FDLR and its predecessors as enemies or allies in the fight against Tutsim militia. Some of the leaders of the FDLR participated in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, but most of today’s members are too young to have attended.

Tutsimilises with more or less open support from Rwanda have replaced each other. In conjunction with the outbreak of the war in 1998, the Congolese Rally Assembly for Democracy (Rassemblement congolais pour la democracy, RCD) was formed, which was soon divided into two factions. Both formed political parties after the end of the war. An RCD commander who did not accept the peace treaty, Laurent Nkunda, then formed the National Congress for the Defense of the People (National Congress for the Defense of Peuple, CNDP). Nkunda, who had participated in battles against the Hutu regime in Rwanda in the early 1990s, said he wanted to protect the Congolese Tutsis. However, the CNDP was accused of abuses against civilians and especially for forced recruitment of child soldiers. Nkunda was arrested in Rwanda in 2009, since the governments of Kinshasa and Kigali initiated cooperation. It is unclear what happened to him afterwards.

After the arrest of Nkunda, the CNDP was largely incorporated into the Congolese army and would be transformed into a political party. But in the spring of 2012, a group of former CNDP rebels deserted the government army and formed a new militia group on March 23 (Mouvement du March 23, M23). The group was led by Bosco Ntaganda, also with his background in the war in Rwanda. The M23 occupied large parts of the province of Nordkivu, with the support of other militia groups and, of all things, Rwanda. By the end of 2013, the government army, supported by UN troops, had defeated M23 (see Current Policy). By then, Ntaganda had surrendered to the ICC in The Hague and was sentenced in 2019 to 30 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity (see Calendar).

The Mai-Mai militias are a kind of local hunter-gatherer who supports the government side They are also accused of extensive rape and other abuses on civilians.

In the north, the people have been harassed by the Ugandan extremist movement Lord’s resistance army (LRA), expelled from their homeland (see Uganda: The Lord’s Resistance Army).

Since 2013, the Islamic guerrilla Allied Democratic Forces-Nalu (ADF-Nalu) has become more active in Congo-Kinshasa and is accused of being behind a number of acts of violence, including hundreds murder there (see Calendar). The UN estimated in 2018 that ADF-Nalu had 400 to 450 members, including women and children. Other sources believe they are even more so. The group is mainly active in Rwenzori in the northeast, along the border with Uganda, where the militia is involved in illegal logging and mining, among other things.

In 2016, unrest also arose in the Kasai region since the militia group Kamuina Nsapu (sometimes spelled Kamwina Nsapu), based in the Luba people, had attacked government forces.

In 2019, it was estimated that there were about 130 local militia groups or other armed organizations in the eastern part of the country.

Democratic Republic of the Congo Urban Population