Tshisekedi rides parliamentary opposition in fighting Covid-19 spread

Saturday April 18 2020

Congolese firemen begin the disinfecting operation of the state buildings and public spaces in the Gombe district of Kinshasa, on April 12, 2020. PHOTO | JUNIOR KANNAH | AFP


DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi’s decision to impose a national state of emergency has been granted legal backing by the highest court of the land despite protests by the country’s senate.

But that may not be victory yet for a government fighting the spread of Covid-19 as the country has recorded 267 cases, 23 recoveries and 22 fatalities.

But the decision by Mr Tshisekedi to impose restrictions such as a state of emergency, have been met with political resistance and raised political tensions.

It started on April 14 when the two Houses, Senate and the National Assembly met, just 24 hours after the Constitutional Court, had granted constitutional backing for the state of emergency meant to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The Senate, led by its president Alexis Thambwe Mwamba had sought to have the state of emergency directive by the president subjected to a parliamentary vote of approval.

Mr Mwamba had announced that there would be a joint session between deputies and senators to implement the state of emergency.


Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga, President of the National Assembly, Jeanine Mabunda attended the meeting.

Constitution versus life

Citing the prescriptions of the Constitution, the President of the Senate argued that the state of emergency should require a law passed in parliament to comply with the Constitution.

Tshisekedi’s office went to court and the Court rejected the Senate request and effectively meant the argument by Mwamba held no water.

In reaction after the win, Tshisekedi’s office says the Senate leader should make a formal apology for trying to harangue the president.

Kasongo Mwema Yamba Yamba, the Presidential Spokesman said Mr Mwamba should apologise for trying to usurp the powers of the Constitutional Court.

“That is the bare minimum. The logic of the President of the Senate could have triggered an institutional crisis,” he said.

But other observers contradicted him. Mr Jean-Marc Kabund, first vice-president of the National Assembly, and interim president of the UDPS, the party of Tshisekedi, was a vocal opponent on the issue.

Gilbert Kankonde, Deputy Prime Minister of the Interior and Security, belonging to the UDPS, argued the sitting of the parliament was illegal as public gatherings had been prohibited long before, to fight covid-19, effectively curtailing any sittings.

It appeared the Constitutional Court had cut to the chase in what was building up as a Tower of Babel in the leadership of the vast country.

Jeanine Mabunda, the President of the National Assembly, though played down the confusion, arguing it only reflected a maturing democracy.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Mabunda tried to calm the situation by saying that the most important thing was the joint effort against the coronavirus.

“It is important that all institutions come together, work to effectively support the measures taken by the president of the Republic to block the road to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We must look ahead, because the people are looking up to the president, the government, the institutions and the elected representatives of the people in order to seek the best measures to get our country out of the pandemic.”

“Useless political battles will distract us at this crucial time. The most important thing is to look in the same direction and see together how to move forward.”