Police fired tear gas on Monday at demonstrators trying to protest against a parliamentary debate on a proposed census in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s which, if approved, could delay next year’s elections. Under the constitution, President Joseph Kabila will not be able to stand in the 2016 ballot, and critics say the government plan to insist on a census ahead of any vote might enable him to prolong his hold on office.

The government says it can complete the work within a year and argues that the survey is needed to ensure fair and transparent elections, but it begs the question why the census wasn’t completed earlier within Kabila’s mandate.

Joseph Kabila 2006 Election Billboard

Joseph Kabila 2006 Election Billboard “Youth to power the country’s reconstruction”

Democracy is more than government based on the majority of votes cast. That’s mob rule. A respect for the rule of law, protection of human rights for all citizens, especially minorities, and an undisputed obligation of relinquishing control when needed are all parts of democracy. This is why Hamas and Gaza are not democratic. An unwillingness to cede control has been an issue throughout Africa’s history. Kabila has been a far better president than his predecessors (admittedly a very low bar) but Congo’s best hope is that he graciously accepts the end of his presidential term.

Update – January 23, 2015
Bowing to pressure after four days of intense rioting in Kinshasa, plans for a census have been scrapped. This doesn’t rule out Kabila extending his presidency, but celebrations are under way on the assumption that he will complete his term in 2016.