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A banner in Kinshasa reads, 'our candidate, Joseph Kabila.' Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

I spoke today with Raymond Tshibanda, special envoy to the U.S. for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about long-delayed elections now slated for December.

The big picture: The DRC is Africa's second-largest country by area, and fourth-largest by population. Joseph Kabila, 46, has been president since his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001, winning disputed elections in 2006 and 2011. The constitution limits Kabila to two terms, but he is now seven years into a five-year term and has kept the world in suspense by refusing to say he'll step aside.

In a back-and-forth that felt like a scene from Catch-22, Tshibanda told me the constitution is "quite clear" about the term limit, there is no time for a referendum to change it and Kabila has pledged to respect it — thus, the situation is entirely straightforward.

So he's not running then? Tshibanda wouldn't say.

"There is no reason for him to say that ... most sitting presidents around the world withhold the announcement of their decision in clear terms," he told me, adding "they have good reasons for not wanting to speak too early."

Some reasons he offered:

  • "There might be people who will be afraid to hear tomorrow that Kabila will not be president anymore."
  • "Becoming a lame duck in the U.S. is different than becoming a lame duck in the DRC."
  • "If chaos were to start in the country today, can you guarantee that we will have elections in December? The country is still quite fragile."
  • "The timeline between June [when the list of candidates becomes official] and the elections is shorter. If there is any chaos, it can be contained."

Worth noting: Tshibanda said he met with U.S. National Security Council officials while in D.C., and they agreed that elections were on track for December but raised concerns about the use of voting machines — which the opposition says could be manipulated and Tshibanda said are needed to solve the "logistical nightmare."

The bottom line: "Very soon it will be time to speak loud and clear and the president will speak loud and clear," Tshibanda told me. The stakes are high when, as Tshibanda noted, every election carries the risk of war. We'll soon hear what Kabila has to say.

Go deeper

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

U.S. Chamber decides against political ban for Capitol insurrection

A pedestrian passes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters as it undergoes renovation. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.