May 31, 2018

Deadly suspense in the Congo

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

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee on Wednesday, including the gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at a Wednesday evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus updates: South Korea case count tops 2,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Health

Syria's darkest chapter

Family room without a family, in Idlib. Photo: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s brutal civil war is colliding today with what could be the war’s most dangerous geopolitical showdown, after at least 29 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike.

The big picture: The fighting is taking place in Idlib in northwest Syria, where a ferocious Syrian and Russian offensive has displaced 1 million civilians and infuriated Turkey, which borders the region.

Go deeperArrow10 hours ago - World