President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will finally be stepping down from power after holding on to the presidency for two extra years, postponing elections since 2016. Kabila has been in power since 2001 after he took over the presidency from his father Laurent Kabila who was assassinated. The long awaited election has seen the death of former Prime Minister of Congo and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who was touted as “Congo’s most tenacious opposition leader.”

Mass demonstrations have coloured President Kabila’s stay in power including current demonstrations against the blockage of Moise Katumbi from entering the country. Katumbi, an opposition candidate and former governor of Katanga Province fled into exile in 2016, but currently is to register as a candidate in the presidential elections that would take place later this year.

Read: Congolese opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi not a Kabila ally

File photo taken on September 19, 2016 shows demonstrators gathering in front of a burning car during an opposition rally in Kinshasa. Kabila, who has ruled DR Congo since 2001, is banned under the constitution from running again — but he has given no sign of intending to give up his job in December. Photo: ANP/AFP Eduardo Soteras

The elections in the DRC will also be contested by a former warlord, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was also a former vice president and just got acquitted from the International Criminal Court.

President Kabila’s party, in a surprising move picked former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari as its presidential nominee. Shadari is Kabila loyalist and there are concerns that he could play the role of a puppet in the event that he becomes president. Shadari  was sanctioned in May this year by the European Union over human rights abuses. As interior minister, he oversaw the security forces crackdown on protesters.

For a country that is struggling to establish democracy and strong independent institutions, the elections which are going to take place on the 23rd of December 2018 offer a glimmer of hope for a better future. Various civil rights groups, interest groups including religious organisations such as the Catholic Church in Congo have played a major role protesting the continued stay of President Kabila in power.

Read: Congo’s Bemba acquitted of war crimes and released

There is hope that Congo will be able to rewrite its future after years of political instability. As other African countries such as Angola are showing promising signs of progress after years of repression, corruption and nepotism, Congo has the opportunity to move  from years of stagnation.