Tshisekedi, Kabila standoff causes anxiety in DR Congo

Saturday May 11 2019

Congo's former president Joseph Kabila (left) drapes newly inaugurated President Felix on January 24, 2019 with the presidential scarf as he is officially handed over the instruments of power at the Presidency in Kinshasa. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP


Almost four months after the Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi was inaugurated, he is ruling the country without a prime minister or Cabinet.

Delayed naming of a prime minister and a Cabinet, which are key in day-to-day running of the government, has raised questions as to whether President Tshisekedi is in full control.

Report have also emerged of deep divisions between his CACH Coalition and former president Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for the Congo (FCC).

Experts in Democratic Republic of Congo affairs say that President Tshisekedi is not in charge and cannot govern without the dictates of Mr Kabila given that FCC has 337 MPs out of the total 500, 23 of 24 provincial governors and 91 of 100 senators.

“What we have is just a change of names and not the regime because the Kabila’ regime is still ruling by proxy with eight of his former ministers still in office. President Tshisekedi is just like a prime minister under the control of the real wielder of power,” said Dr Mialano Tangania, a Congo politician who lives in exile in Kenya.

Dr Tangania said the amendments to the Constitution just before the elections that made it mandatory for a prime minister to come from the party with the majority in parliament has virtually tied President Tshisekedi’s hands.


In March, President Tshisekedi suspended the inauguration of the Senators on grounds that they were elected after heavy bribery, but changed his mind within a week, giving indications that he could not withstand pressure from Mr Kabila.

The latest standoff came in April when President Tshisekedi refused to accept Albert Yuma Mulimbi as Prime Minister whose name was forwarded by Mr Kabila’s FCC. Mr Mulimbi, 64, is a prominent businessman and chairperson of the Federation Congo Employers.

Mr Kabila himself has said that there is nothing that prevents him from contesting again in 2023 and Congo experts say that President Tshisekedi is just holding the post on his behalf as an alternative to changing the constitution.

Power deal

Stephanie Wolters, the head of the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, told The EastAfrican that there the doubts whether President Tshisekedi will assert his authority over Mr Kabila.

“But this is a man who came to power as a result of a political deal that denied the real winner the presidency, and the Congolese population its vote,” she said.

Martin Fayulu, who came second and has maintained that he was robbed of victory following the Kabila-Tshisekedi deal, continues to tour the country to press for fresh elections, though one of his backers, Moise Katumbi is currently lukewarm in his support.

Ms Wolters says that whether Mr Kabila intends to return to the presidency is a question for another day.

“If on the other hand, he really does want to return to the presidency, he has to keep President Tshisekedi from succeeding and from garnering popular support,” said Ms Wolters.

Collision course

Other experts say that even if President Tshisekedi is focused on his personal political future rather than national interests, he will be on a collision course with Mr Kabila when it comes to the 2023 presidential elections.

Experts added that Tshisekedi has to contend with his chief of staff, Vital Kamerhe, who was central in the formation of the CACH Coalition in Nairobi but who has always nursed presidential ambitions.

For President Tshisekedi to be seen to be working, he has to tackle corruption, patronage politics, reforming the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court and breaking the networks of military-economic interests that maintain the current status quo.

However, Ms Wolters noted that is a difficult task that even Mr Fayulu, with his popular support could not have succeeded.

In May, prior to President Tshisekedi’s visit to the US, Washington had imposed sanctions on top electoral commission officials that validated his victory.

Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy at the Enough Project, then said that targeted sanctions, anti-money laundering measures and prosecutions of inner network of Mr Kabila’s financial facilitators and their networks of companies will be critical.