From: The Honorable Christopher H. Smith
Sent By: gregory.simpkins@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.Res. 780
Date: 6/20/2016

Dear Colleagues:

As each day goes by, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) edges closer to widening unrest, and many observers fear the situation could devolve into chaos.  Although the country’s constitution forbids a third term in office for President Joseph Kabila, there is increasing concern that his government is deliberately creating a situation in which scheduled elections cannot be held in November, effectively undermining the intent of the constitutional bar to a third term by extending Kabila’s second term indefinitely.

There already have been violent demonstrations against President Kabila’s efforts to repeal the constitutional bar to a third term and to delay the elections by as much as three years. According to the Kabila government, a national census and revision to voter rolls must first take place to guarantee the credibility of the vote, but there has been little effort to make sufficient progress to allow elections this year.  This strategy is known in French as “glissement” or slippage.

The current constitution mandates that Kabila’s final term ends on December 19, and elections scheduled for November would select a new president before Kabila’s term expires and elect members of Parliament, whose current term also will expire this year.  According to the constitution, if no election is held on schedule and a presidential vacancy is declared, the President of the Senate will assume power for a three-month term in order to hold elections.  However, on May 11, the Constitutional Court ruled that the president would remain in office until his successor is voted in.

This Central African nation borders nine neighbors and is the largest nation by area in sub-Saharan Africa.  A crisis in DRC would inevitably impact not only its neighbors, but also the world community at large due to potentially significant disruptions in the vital supply of cobalt, diamonds and copper.  A prolonged disruption of these minerals will adversely impact the global economy and cause serious problems for the medical use of cobalt in diagnostic machines such as X-ray flourescent devices.

Consequently, I urge you to join me and Representatives Royce, Engel and Bass in co-sponsoring
H. Res. 780, which calls on the Administration to take immediate action to prevent a constitutional crisis in the DRC, using authorities the President granted to himself with Executive Orders, to sanction those DRC officials responsible for helping to frustrate the democratic process.  These would be targeted sanctions that would not affect the country at large.

Sincerely,

Chris Smith

MEMBER OF CONGRESS