DRC: Constitutional Crisis between Kasavubu and Tshombe

Extracted from: "Democratic Republic of Congo" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 67-68.

Shortly before the beginning of the extraordinary parliamentary session of October 1965, Victor Nendaka, the Minister of Home Affairs in the Tshombe government, defected from the CONACO and formed a new coalition, the Front Démocratique Congolais (FDC). The ensuing confusion made it difficult to determine which parties had left the CONACO. The number of seats won by the CONACO decreased substantially but not to the extent of making the FDC the majority coalition. Thus, the CONACO managed to get its candidates elected as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (Yvon Kimpiombi), Deputy-Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (François Mopipi) and Deputy-President of the Senate (Joseph Molebe). A candidate of the FDC (Sylvestre Mudianganyi) was elected President of the Senate. Although these results demonstrated that the CONACO was still the majority group, it became clear that a non-negligible portion of the MPs and senators subsequently had switched to the FDC.

The election results showed that there was some balance between the two main coalitions with the CONACO enjoying a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and FDC controlling the Senate. President Kasavubu exploited these developments for personal gain. In fact Kasavubu was annoyed by Tshombe's increasing popularity all over the country, which made him a redoubtable rival for the next presidential elections. He therefore discharged Tshombe and his government and then appointed Evariste Kimba of the FDC as the new Prime Minister. On 14 November 1965 the National Congress which was composed of all the members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate was convened, and Kimba failed to secure the approbation of his government by the CONACO-dominated legislature (121 votes for, 134 against with 7 abstentions). Instead of proposing a new Prime Minister, Kasavubu re-appointed Kimba on 15 November 1965. This led to a power struggle between Kasavubu and Tshombe, prompting General Mobutu to undertake the second coup d'état of his career in order to end the impasse.