“The conclusion of consultations under President Joseph Kabila Kabange, the moral authority of the Common Front for Congo, has resulted in a name, the rare bird who will represent our political family in the presidential election,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters in the capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday. “It will be Comrade Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.”
Shadary, 57, is the permanent secretary of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and a former interior minister. He’s also one of nine Congolese sanctioned last year by the European Union, which accused them of undermining democracy and abusing human rights.
Kabila, in power since 2001, had been consulting with his Common Front for Congo coalition, or FCC, since late July and its choice of candidate was a closely guarded secret. The president’s decision not to compete in the vote will assuage international actors such as the U.S., United Nations and African Union, which had opposed his candidacy. Congo’s major opposition groups had also demanded that Kabila not participate.
Kabila being ruled out as a candidate is a “crucial first step” toward ensuring a credible electoral process in Congo, Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement.
“Ramazani himself has been sanctioned by the European Union and has played a key role in government repression over the past several years,” she said. “Tough pressure from Congo’s regional and international partners must continue for the country to see a truly democratic transition and to prevent more repression and bloodshed in the months ahead.”
Congo’s presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place on Dec. 23. They were initially supposed to be held in late 2016, but were postponed when the electoral commission’s failed to organize them.
Kabila was elected in two previous elections and adversaries claim that he himself was the main obstacle to timely polls as he was reluctant to give up power. The president’s refusal to exclude himself from the next election until the last minute fueled speculation he’d seek another term.
Kabila’s initial choice to retain the presidency beyond the end of his second term, which expired in December 2016, sparked sporadic protests in which security forces killed dozens of people. Congo hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
So far, three major opposition leaders -- Jean-Pierre Bemba, Vital Kamerhe and Felix Tshisekedi -- have registered to compete in the presidential election. Another, Moise Katumbi, says Kabila is preventing him from returning to Congo and filing his papers.
The four men have said they may unite behind a single opposition candidate.