Congo, Democratic Republic of the - Domestic policy



Politically, Joseph Kabila's main challenges have been to hold the country together and to reestablish a sense of predictability and confidence in the economy. He therefore has had to focus his attention on the country's civil war and on negotiating a ceasefire and settlement acceptable to the rebels, warlords, and elite resource entrepreneurs. Kabila's crowning success is the December agreement, which calls for him to head a unity government with 35 cabinet positions, along with four vice presidents representing the government, the unarmed opposition, the MLC, and the RCD. The agreement also establishes a transition Parliament, made up of a 500-member National Assembly and a 120-member Senate with deputies appointed by their respective parties. Other transition bodies include an electoral commission, a media-regulator, a truth and reconciliation commission, a national human rights watchdog, and an anticorruption commission.

In the economic sphere, Kabila's administration has conformed to International Monetary Fund (IMF) monetary and fiscal discipline, which has brought the budget in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Accordingly, the IMF approved a three-year poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) in June 2002, which was the first formal assistance to the DROC from the IMF in over a decade. The World Bank also assisted the government in infrastructure, poverty reduction, and business environment and tax reforms. These were the most significant stabilization policies in the DROC's 42-year history.

On the negative side, while diamond mining expanded, little progress was made to restructure the state copper and cobalt company, Gecamines. Further, the Minister of Finance, Matungulu Nguyamu, resigned in February 2003 when Parliament refused to approve his annual budget. Nguyamu, a former IMF employee, had been one of the administration's brightest lights. Nevertheless, real GDP growth was expected to improve from 3.5% in 2002 to 5.5% in 2003 and 6.5% in 2004. Inflation was expected to remain low, and an upsurge in exports was predicted.

Given threats to state integrity, Kabila's domestic policy will stay focused on issues of national security. The Rwandan-backed RCD and the Mai-Mai militias, both of whom have been guaranteed cabinet representation in the transition, are still fighting in the Kivu provinces. Moreover, ethnic and political conflicts in the northeast will be hard to resolve, particularly because of small arms trafficking. Under Kabila's direction, the transition government will have to elaborate a new Constitution, form a new national army, and ensure the security of transition government delegates in Kinshasa.

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