Author: Alexis Arieff, Analyst in African Affairs
Poor governance, conflict, and a long-running humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) present a range of challenges for international policymakers, including Members of Congress. Chronic instability in mineral-rich and densely populated eastern DRC has caused widespread human suffering and inhibited economic development throughout the wider Great Lakes region of central Africa. Congolese political actors have displayed limited capacity and will to improve security and state administration, while neighboring states have periodically provided support to rebel groups in the country. U.S. officials have expressed mounting concern about DRC’s democratic trajectory ahead of national elections notionally slated for 2016. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila, in office since 2001, is constitutionally barred from reelection, but he appears likely to cling to power by delaying the polls. DRC has never experienced an electoral transfer of power between administrations. Election-related tensions have raised concerns about possible violence in a sub-region already experiencing substantial political unrest.