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date: 25 April 2019


A Dictionary of African Politics

Nicholas Cheeseman


A term used in the Democratic Republic of Congo to refer to the practice of indefinitely delaying the organization of elections until a third term for the incumbent president becomes a fait accompli. This usage is an extension of the original meaning of the word in French, which is ‘shifting’ or ‘sliding’. It entered popular usage in 2015–17, when it became clear that President Joseph Kabila was unwilling to stand down following the end of his second term in office in 2016. Instead, Kabila’s government delayed preparations for the general election that was scheduled to select his successor, and then manipulated these delays to argue that it was legitimate for him to remain in power, as he could not leave office in the absence of a president-elect to replace him. In this way, Kabila created an administrative facade for his efforts to stay in power, remaining as president into 2017. However, the real motivation for his actions was widely understood by the public, as demonstrated by the growing use of glissement in popular discourse.