|Kabila is credited for bring peace to the DRC but critics say his increasingly authoritarian ways are disturbing [EPA]
When his father, Laurent Kabila, the former president of the DRC, was assassinated in 2001, Joseph Kabila was inadvertently launched into the limelight, securing the presidency and working immediately towards a ceasefire in the country’s long-running and overlapping conflicts.
During the first Congo war, Kabila was a guerilla commander in the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL). ??
Following the AFDL’s victory and the ousting from power of Mobutu Sese Seko, the long-term ruler of then-Zaire, and until the death of his father, Kabila functioned as chief of staff of the land forces, in charge of government troops during the second Congo war between 1998-2002.
But after his father’s death, Kabila was widely credited with arranging a ceasefire at the height of the war which paved the way for the creation of a transitional government, which he headed from 2003.
Kabila survived a series of attempted coups, first in 2003 and then in 2004 before winning in 2006 the DRC’s first general election since independence in 1960.
Though the first round of voting was disputed, Kabila won the second round with 70 per cent of the vote.
Kabila’s critics say that he has failed since then to reform the security sector, improve basic infrastructure and that his administration remains overwhelmingly corrupt.
Kabila argues that the country’s problems are a culmination of years of neglect and existed before he took over office; he has also maintained that his presidency should not be judged by where the country is now, but rather on where it was when he became president.
When Kabila became president, the country had barely stepped out of a war involving up to nine countries and 20 armed groups.
Though Kabila’s administration has seen relative calm restored over most of the country, the eastern half of the DRC has suffered a series of incursions, skirmishes and incidents of mass rape that have given the impression that Kabila is still not in charge of the entire expanse of this vast country.
In the lead up to the elections, human rights groups have also alleged strong arm tactics by the Kabila administration on opposition supporters in the capital.
Moreover, Kabila’s successful move to change the constitution in January 2011 to allow for the candidate with the highest number of votes (even if less than 50 per cent) to win the elections has been seen as an attempt to ensure his victory, drawing criticism from opponents.
Security issues in the east of the country have cost Kabila significant support in an area of the country that has traditionally backed him, though it is difficult to estimate how much of an impact these losses will have on his re-election prospects.