Changing the Political Calculus

By Joseph Siegle

Dr. Joseph Siegle directs the Africa Center's research program with the aim of generating practical, evidence-based policy analysis that can contribute to addressing ongoing and over-the-horizon security challenges in Africa. Dr. Siegle's research focuses on the relationship between governance, security, and economic development. His writings explore the processes and pitfalls of democratic transitions; Africa-wide security challenges and trends; stabilization strategies for fragile states; security sector governance; countering violent extremism; and strengthening institutions of accountability. Prior to joining the Africa Center, Dr. Siegle served in a variety of scholar and practitioner roles. He was a Douglas Dillon Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior research scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, a senior advisor for democratic governance at the international consulting firm DAI, a country director with the international nongovernmental organization World Vision, and a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. He has worked in some 40 countries around the world, including numerous conflict-affected areas in western, southern, and eastern Africa. Dr. Siegle earned his Ph.D. in international security and economic policy from the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and holds an M.A. in agricultural economics, with an emphasis on African food security, from Michigan State University.

African leaders have tried many different ways to evade term limits in recent years. Usually these take a form of reinterpreting when an incumbent’s first term started. Or they orchestrate a referendum or constitutional amendment bypassing the term limit restriction. The tack taken by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Joseph Kabila is particularly straightforward – and brazen.  He is simply avoiding holding elections for his successor altogether. 

Having already been in power for more than 10 years and nearing the completion of his second and final term in December, Kabila has set in motion a series of actions that are preventing the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) from holding presidential elections in November as planned. On its current trajectory, this means presidential elections wouldn’t be held until 2018 at the earliest. His intent is to continue his hold on power in the interim. Meanwhile, loyalists are busily working to lift the two-term limit in total.

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