Democracy and rights
Congo-Kinshasa went to elections 2006 was the
first time in 40 years that democratic elections were
held in the country. But democratization came and
despite a massive UN effort and several peace
agreements, the violence in the country has not ceased
and both rebel groups and government troops are
committing abuses against the civilian population. The
judiciary is weak and corruption is widespread.
The last presidential and parliamentary elections
held at the end of 2018 after being postponed several
times led to a shift in the presidential post, when
opposition politician Félix Tshisekedi took over after
Joseph Kabila who had been in power since 2006. However,
Kabila looked to retain a great influence when his party
alliance, the Congo Common Front (FCC), gained its own
majority in the National Assembly (and in many
provincial assemblies). Many also argue that it was not
Tshisekedi who won the election, but another opposition
candidate. Several opposition politicians were also
banned from participating in the elections (see Current
policy). It was also postponed in three districts, where
the opposition was strong, due to violence and an
outbreak of the infectious viral disease ebola (see
Calendar). A number of irregularities were also reported
(see Calendar). Election Commission Ceni failed to
publish the votes three months before the election,
which it must do according to the rules.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Democratic Republic of the Congo, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Kabila's mandate had formally expired in 2016, and
the election was postponed time and time again, raising
concerns that he intended to try to retain power.
Several peaceful opposition protests were defeated by
force and many protesters were arrested, despite freedom
of assembly guaranteed in the constitution. There are
also indications that the security forces have paid
people to provoke violence in connection with the
opposition's manifestations. According to Freedom House,
dozens of people must have been killed by security
forces only in the weeks before the election.
In March 2019, the new president pardoned 700
political prisoners who had been arrested under Kabila's
rule (see Calendar).
Historically, Congo-Kinshasa has been a centralized
country on paper. In practice, however, the ties between
the capital and the more remote parts of the country
have been weak, which created uncertainty about the
powers of local leaders and contributed to distrust of
the central power.
There are hundreds of political parties, most of them
small. Harassment of opposition leaders and their
supporters is common.
There are also a large number of voluntary
organizations, many of which find it difficult to
operate freely. Particularly vulnerable are people who
work to defend human rights.
Women are under-represented in politics. Only one of
21 presidential candidates in 2018 was female. 50 of the
485 members elected in the National Assembly that year
were women (corresponding to ten percent of the members)
and 5 of 108 senators (corresponding to just under five
Freedom of expression and media
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press and
opinion, but in practice it is limited. Journalists are
subject to harassment by both government officials and
non-governmental actors. The rulers try to control the
media through censorship, threats, extrajudicial arrests
Congo-Kinshasa ended 2019 in 154 out of 179 countries
in the Press Freedom Organization Reporters Without
Borders ranking the freedom of the press in the world's
countries, which is twelve rankings lower than 2013.
During most of the Mobuto regime's time (1965–1997),
the mass media was controlled by the state. In the
1990s, some magazines began to pursue more independent
journalism and the media supply is broader today.
However, most media are highly politicized and biased in
their reporting. The media authority that is supposed to
ensure that ethical rules are followed often do not have
the power to enforce the rules.
State media has often favored Joseph Kabila's party.
Despite this, there are plenty of materials that
criticize the power holders, although these media are
also pressured to publish regime-friendly propaganda.
To conduct investigative journalism is associated
with great risks. Ten journalists have been killed
during Kabila's time in power. No one has been convicted
of these murders.
The media climate was getting worse as the
presidential and parliamentary elections that would have
been held in 2016 were approaching. Several media
related to the opposition were shut down by the
authorities. Many of the journalists who reported on the
opposition's demonstrations in 2017 have been arrested
and beaten by the state security forces and the
intelligence service. Several media with ties to the
opposition have also been forced to close. It is also
common for the authorities to shut down the network and
prevent citizens from communicating via social media.
In July 2018, the authorities tightened the rules for
media publishing on the Internet in a way that has
caused press freedom organizations to worry that the
purpose is to silence all critical voices.
Since the summer of 2017, foreign journalists have
also restricted freedom of movement. In order to monitor
areas outside Kinshasa, the authorities must give their
permission. From the end of 2016 until August 2017,
Radio France Internationale (RFI) was prevented from
broadcasting from Kinshasa. Similar intervention against
the mass media took place around the 2018 election.
RFI's correspondent was banned from working in the
country. After the election, the authorities shut down
all Internet and SMS traffic.
Paper magazines are mainly found in the larger
cities. The traditional press is often owned by
politicians. Of the social media, Facebook has the most
Due to the limited literacy and high newspaper
prices, it is the radio that reaches the most. The state
broadcaster RTNC broadcasts programs in the major
languages. There are about 100 local radio stations in
the country, most of which are privately owned and have
links with politicians.
In Congo-Kinshasa there are diamonds, oil and timber
as well as cobalt, copper, columbit-tantalite (coltan)
and other metals. But instead of promoting development,
the natural resources have often been used to fund the
country's struggles (see also Poor people in a rich
country). Both government employees and military, rebels
and foreigners participate in the exploitation. Large
sums also disappear into corruption.
Severe corruption in many cases makes normal
financial transactions impossible and economic life is
largely outside the control of the government.
High positions in government, administration and
government companies often go to relatives of the
There are no laws that give citizens the right to
access government affairs. The rules that state that the
president and ministers openly declare their assets are
According to the organization Transparency
International's index list of perceived corruption in
the countries of the world, in 2019, Congo-Kinshasa
ranked 168 out of 180 countries. Seven places down
compared to the previous year.
Judicial system and legal security
Like all other public activities in Congo-Kinshasa,
the judiciary is heavily corrupted, partly due to the
lawyers' low wages and poor working conditions. The
judges are appointed by the president. The collapse of
the judiciary has resulted in total lawlessness for the
individual citizen. In recent years, the cases have
often been dealt with by military courts, whose rules
are vague and whose ruling cannot be appealed. The
defendants rarely have access to a lawyer. Out in the
countryside, ordinary courts are often completely
The Congolese judiciary rarely deals with the
commonly occurring violations of human rights. Many army
unions still act as rebel forces and are guilty of
assault, especially in the troubled eastern part of the
country. The police often commit torture and rape. The
conditions in the detention and prisons are substandard
and the inmates are tortured and abused almost
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague
has charged five people for war crimes committed in
Congo-Kinshasa and issued an arrest warrant for a sixth.
A seventh Congolese held by the ICC is Jean-Pierre Bemba
(see above), who, however, was charged with crimes
committed in the Central African Republic in 2002–2003
(see Central African Republic: Political System and
Calendar). Bemba was convicted in 2016 of murders and
rapes committed by his rebels in the neighboring country
to 18 years in prison. He was found guilty of five
counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The
prosecutor had been in prison for 25 years. Bemba, who
was Vice President of Congo-Kinshasa 2003-2006, thus
became the person of the highest rank judged by the ICC.
He was also the first to be convicted of sexual violence
in wartime. Bemba appealed against the verdict and was
released in June 2018 by the ICC Appellate Unit. He then
returned to his home country (see Calendar). However,
his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election was
rejected as he was convicted of bribing witnesses in
connection with the previous judicial process.
Three Congolese have been sentenced to prison by the
ICC. Mila leader Thomas Lubanga in 2006 became the first
in the world to be arrested on orders by the ICC and in
2012 the first to be dropped. He was sentenced for
forced recruitment of child soldiers to 14 years in
prison. Lubanga was the leader of a militia in the Ituri
region. Another militia leader in Ituri, Germain
Katanga, was sentenced in 2014 to twelve years in prison
for war crimes and crimes against humanity (see further
Modern History and Calendar). Bosco Ntaganda from the
Tutsimilsen M23 was convicted in July 2019 for war
crimes and crimes against humanity, and in November 2019
he was sentenced to 30 years in prison (see Calendar).
An FDLR leader, Sylvestre Mudacumura, who was suspected
of crimes against humanity was at length free, but was
killed by Congolese troops in September 2019. In one
case, the ICC has released the suspect from the charges
(Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui) and in another case the target
has been dropped for lack of evidence (Callixte
In the fall of 2015, a German court sentenced two
FDLR leaders, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni,
to 13 years and 8 years in prison for crimes committed
in eastern Congo-Kinshasa (see Calendar).
In domestic courts, a number of Congolese army
soldiers and members of Mai-Mai have been sentenced to
long prison terms for, among other things, rape.
However, in most cases the highest commanders have
Kabila takes over as president
Kabila takes over as president. Veteran Antoine
Gizenga of the United Lumumbist Party (Palu) is
appointed prime minister.
Kabila defeats Bemba
In the second round of the presidential election,
Kabila clearly defeats Bemba with 58 percent of the
vote. Bemba appeals first, but later agrees to lead the
Kabila wins the first round of presidential
Presidential and parliamentary elections are held
with the support of the UN and the EU. An alliance
supporting President Kabila gains a majority in
parliament. In the first round of the presidential
election, Kabila receives 45 percent of the vote and
former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba from the Congo
Liberation Movement (MLC) 20 percent. Severe unrest
erupts in Kinshasa between their two private armies when
the results are made public.
New foundations enter into force
The new constitution comes into force.