One basic measure of Joseph Kabila's leadership is his survival as head of state two years after the assassination of his father. Kabila inherited a bankrupt treasury, a failed economy, and a partitioned state. Given his youth and inexperience, few observers thought he would be able to orchestrate the power-sharing agreement signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002 between his government, the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD-Goma), the unarmed opposition, and civil society. Notably, the agreement permits Kabila to remain president of the DROC until elections are held, a condition on which he insisted throughout the Inter-Congolese Dialog (ICD) talks. With national elections due two years after the political transition begins, Kabila might serve four unelected years before being eligible to run for an undetermined number of elected terms.
Another indicator of Kabila's leadership is the way he has won the public relations battle in the court of world opinion. By taking tough-minded decisions to reform his government, Kabila has improved his image abroad, and obtained international support for peace and national reconstruction. At a consultative meeting in Paris in December 2002, donors pledged US $2.5 billion to rebuild the country, and in March 2003, the UN authorized an increase in the existing force of foreign troops to 8,700 to safeguard the interim government. Analysts predicted that a transition government could be in place by April 2003.
Kabila has yet to regain undisputed control over rebel-held territory in the north and east, and he also must curb human rights abuses inflicted by the MLC against Pygmies in the Ituri Forest. However, he has shown himself tough-minded in his commitment to various reforms as evidenced by his suspension of government officials named in a UN report on illegal resource plundering in DROC. He could also boost international confidence in his government if he commutes the death sentences rendered in the assassination trial verdicts. His leadership will continue to be tested as the cumbersome transition begins.