Q&A: What is DRC President Joseph Kabila’s legacy?

After 17 years in power, President Joseph Kabila is stepping aside – but what sort of a country is he leaving behind?

Kinshasa, DRC – After years of uncertainty, Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who has been in power for 17 years – has finally made it clear that he will not seek re-election in the country’s upcoming presidential elections.

His ruling coalition on Wednesday nominated former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate for December’s delayed poll.

The announcement ended a long period of speculation and anxiety characterised by protests and violent clashes between police and demonstrators angry at Kabila’s decision to not quit power after his second term expired two years ago.

Some of his critics say Kabila’s legacy is badly tainted while supporters say he unified a badly-divided country and did what he could under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Al Jazeera has spoken to two political figures in the DRC who offer different views about Kabila’s legacy.

Fayulu says Kabila has not done anything positive for his country [Al Jazeera]
Fayulu says Kabila has not done anything positive for his country [Al Jazeera]

Martin Fayulu – presidential hopeful and leader of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party (ECIDE)

Al Jazeera: What do you make of Kabila’s decision not to seek re-election and the choice of Ramazani Shadary as his successor?

Fayulu: Kabila stepped down because of pressure. I’m happy today that we have won the battle. Without that pressure, he would have changed the constitution. Without the international pressure, Kabila would have changed everything.

The nomination of Ramazani Shadary does not mean he’s already president. He has to go to the election and win. I doubt that Mr Ramazani can win if the poll is serious and credible.

Where does he come from? A small province. He is not very well-known. I don’t even know his strength in that area [Manyema]. His power really is just Kabila.

Al Jazeera: Do you think there will be a fair and credible election?

Fayulu: We will not accept the election to take place if we have the 10 million fake names in the register. We will not let the election happen if they use electronic voting machines. We will not let Congolese people go to an election that is open to rigging.

As we fought for Kabila to step down, we’ll continue to fight to have fair and credible elections.

Al Jazeera: What is President Kabila’s legacy?

Fayulu: Kabila’s legacy is that DRC is in shambles. Today, we don’t have any security. There is no peace. He has scattered the country.

Kabila legacy is poverty, Congolese have become poorer, there are no jobs. Unemployment is almost 99 percent.

People are dying today because of lack of clean water in a country where you have water everywhere. DRC has become a weak country.

Al Jazeera: Surely there must be one thing that he’s done that you would consider positive?

Fayulu: I am honestly struggling to come up with anything. I’m telling you the truth. I don’t have a personal problem with Kabila. But I have everything against his system.

What has he done? Corruption is destroying the country, he’s brought animosity among Congolese.

I have personally suffered because of my conviction and protests I have organised. I have been badly beaten and shot at by his security forces, the administration has shut down my boutique hotel.

Wait, I have just remembered one positive: he has learned French. That’s a good thing. I appreciate.

Bin Karubi says Kabila unified the DRC [Al Jazeera]
Bin Karubi says Kabila unified the DRC [Al Jazeera]

Kikaya Bin Karubi – Presidential diplomatic adviser

Al Jazeera: What legacy does President Kabila leave behind?

Bin Karubi: If there is one thing that the president did, to begin with, is to unify the country. When he took over in 2001, we did not have a Congo. We had a vast territory with six foreign armies and more than 20 armed groups roaming around the country killing, raping, stealing and doing all sorts of things.

When he took over, he decided to bring the warring factions together. He brought everybody, including the international community, to the table for an inclusive process that helped get back our country.

After that he embarked on a mission of rebuilding. He build roads, basic infrastructure, ports, airports, office buildings – you name it. He build a foundation for us to be able to have a good strong economy in central Africa.

Al Jazeera: What are some of the difficulties that might have made it hard for him to deliver on some of the promises made over the years?

Bin Karubi: People do not understand him and his vision. Had he been left alone, he would have done greater things.

His first government programme [was] to rebuild the Congolese economy and infrastructure. While doing that he was bad mouthed, sanctions were imposed, he was also dealing with internal conflicts some instigated by foreign countries.

Despite the challenges he still managed to build the basic infrastructure. He also wanted DRC to become an emergent country, but at the same time we were attacked time and again in the east.

Even today, we still have foreign armed groups and these are areas that are most rich in minerals. All the problems have impeded the president from fully actualising his vision, but he did what he could in building a foundation.

Al Jazeera: Are you concerned that the achievements you mention will be overshadowed by events of recent years? People accuse his government of being repressive, his security forces using brutal force to clamp down dissent and the president him causing a lot of anxiety and tension by not declaring his intention for a third term for two years.

Bin Karubi: People will remember what they want, but the truth is strong and it will always prevail. The president has never said he will stay on and become president for life.

The reason we did not have an election in 2016 is because of conflict. How do you prepare for an election when you’re fighting a war.

The voter roll was corrupt to an extent that it was impossible to organise an election. The electoral commission is now prepared and the president has said DRC is ready for a free, fair and transparent election.

Source: Al Jazeera