The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a new president, Félix Tshisekedi. His January 24, 2019 inauguration marked the first peaceful transition in the DRC’s post-independence history. But deep doubts persist over the integrity of the process and result.
For some, it is a cautious step forward, for others, a cosmetic disguise for ongoing dictatorship. Seen in historical perspective, it may be best understood as a symptom of the long-unresolved struggle between centre and periphery – and the latest attempt to answer the problem of governing a state as vast and heterogeneous as the Congo.
The parameters of the Congo’s political system have remained relatively static since Mobutu Sese Seko, the Cold War-era dictator who renamed the country Zaire. It is a system that has outlived two wars, repeated humanitarian emergencies and billions of dollars of peacekeeping and reform efforts.