Felix Tshisekedi set to be sworn in as tumultous process inches to a close

By Timi Obafemi

Finally, a President-elect has been named for the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo.

Son of a former Prime Minister, Etienne Tshisekedi and inheritor of the structures that his father had left behind (outgoing President Joseph Kabila also inherited his father’s political estate) the President-elect is the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the oldest and largest opposition (now prospective ruling) party in the Central African nation.

Tshisekedi who was born in Kinshasa on 13 June 1963 had in November 2011, obtained a seat in the National Assembly, representing the city of Mbuji Mayi in Kasai-Oriental province which he however did not take up. Another attempt in 2013 to make him a rapporteur at the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), was equally rebuffed by him.

Following the death of his dad in February 2018, he was on 31 March 2018, elected to lead the UDPS. He was similarly endorsed as UDPS presidential candidate in the general election that took place on 30 December 2018.

When cross-party opposition talks were held in Switzerland to present a common front against outgoing President Kabila’s schemes to install his crony, Emmanuel Shadary, as successor, Tshisekedi emerged second in the consensus candidate poll. However, he soon backed out of the deal that had favoured the other leading opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu.

Following the stalemate that had greeted the delay in the announcement of the results, there was talk around Congo that there were backdoor talks going on between the camps of Tsisekedi and Kabila. Indeed, a high-ranking UDPS official had confirmed knowledge of the talks even as the Kabila camp had also gone on over-drive to formally dismiss it. But many were not fooled. Anyway, one thing has led to another and Fayulu, who had been widely believed to be the front-runner has now been ditched in favour of Tshisekedi.

Analysts say that other than the fact that Fayulu was seen by the Kabila camp as one that they could not trust to not come after them, his other principal sin was evidently his close romance with other notable opponents of Kabila like the exiled Jean Bemba.

But then politics being what it is, what guarantees does Kabila really have that the lesser evil of today will remain so for long? If in doubt, ask the dos Santos family in Angola.

Indeed, this scenario becomes even more topical when it is recalled that widespread disaffection with the poor economic conditions of the mass of the people led to the widespread rejection of outgoing President Kabila and his chosen successor in the just-ended polls. In fact, many watchers of the political scene in the Congo affirm that but for his near-total hold on the security services in the country, the Kabila junta would have been disgraced long before now.

With this, it therefore stands to reason that the only way Tshisekedi can keep any backstage agreements entered into with the Kabila camp would be through using the same hard-line tactics. In that instance, how would his own party members, the rest of the opposition, civil society, the powerful Catholic Church and indeed the international community respond? Mr Tshisekedi, welcome to your future!

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President-Elect, Felix Tshisekedi


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