Senate passes the constitutional revision

Another step has been taken to make serious changes to the Congolese constitution: Today, the senate passed the 8 revisions with 71 votes out of 108. Kabila’s AMP coalition accounts for roughly 58 senators (give or take a few), and they often get another dozen votes from independent senators. Nonetheless, I didn’t expect this to go through so quickly – for a body that takes months to debate insignificant laws, passing a major overhaul of the country’s founding document in a few days is disheartening.

They are now saying that the senate and national assembly will be convened tomorrow to vote on the revision together – they have to pass the proposed amendments with 60% of both chambers together, which seems all but certain.

It’s important to highlight that this will not just change the electoral system – from a to round run-off system to a one round, plurality-win election – but also gives the president the ability to dissolve provincial assemblies, remove governors and call referenda. The minister of justice will also have official control over the prosecutor’s office. In short, the presidency is made more powerful. One can imagine the provincial MPs will be more reluctant to press for decentralization of revenue, as required by the constitution, if the president can kick them out and call a new provincial election. The prosecutors – who are already not known for aggressive steps against abusive officials – will be even more reluctant to press charges against them now.

Such provisions do exist in other constitutions, but in the context of the Congo they will lead to a dangerous centralization of power in the presidency, which has shown little interest thus far in combating impunity and securing its citizens’ rights.