New DR Congo president faces huge task ahead

Saturday January 12 2019

Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi

Supporters of the newly-elected DR Congo president Felix Tshisekedi celebrate his victory in Kinshasa on January 10, 2019. PHOTO | AFP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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Felix Tshisekedi will face many challenges if he clears the legal hurdles in the way of his electoral win.

The DRC suffers from rampant corruption, widespread conflict, endemic disease, and some of the world’s highest levels of sexual violence and malnutrition. It is also rich in minerals, including those crucial to the world’s smartphones and electric cars.

Mr Tshisekedi campaigned on a platform of ending corruption and healing the nation.

After CENI, the electoral commission, declared him winner, he said he will be the president of “all Congolese.”

His first challenge will be to heal the country after years of political crisis over elections and tensions created by President Joseph Kabila’s staying beyond his term.

Now a new challenge has emerged, with Martin Fayulu questioning his victory. He will have to fight hard to gain legitimacy in the eyes of millions of Mr Fayulu’s supporters and the international community, with a section of foreign envoys concerned about the conduct of the elections.

Then the biggest challenge is how to bring peace to the east of the country, including in North and South Kivu, where there are dozens of armed militias operate. In Beni in North Kivu, several areas have been emptied because people are fleeing to safety. Farmers are too afraid to go to their fields for fear of being attacked.

The DRC, being a large and difficult country to administer, the economy is characterised by a lack of crucial infrastructure. In the east of the country, populations have been suffering from conflict for over 20 years.

According to Jean Paul Ilunga, president of the Federation of the Congo in Diaspora (East Africa), one of the biggest problems in Congo now is the low literacy rate, at only 17 per cent. He says this promotes conflict.

“The only good thing is that the Congolese people don’t keep grudges, which will make it easier for Mr Tshisekedi to heal the country,” said Mr Ilunga.

Corruption

Mr Tshisekedi will also have to redeem the country’s image in the eyes of the international community, especially donors, by dealing with official corruption. Again, decades of conflict, political instability, corruption, looting and mineral smuggling have decimated the mining sector, which used to be DRC’s economic engine.

Despite the country’s vast natural resources, the World Bank says that nearly 63 per cent of the 90 million population live below the poverty line.

The DRC is the world's largest producer of cobalt, which is used in the production of batteries for cellphones and other consumer electronics. The country also holds more than half of the world’s cobalt reserves.

The country produces large quantities of copper, diamonds, gold, oil, tin, tantalum, tungsten and zinc. But all these riches have failed to improve the living standards of its citizens.

Last year, Congo’s economy grew by 3.7 per cent but economists are projecting an upturn following a rise in the prices of copper and cobalt—two of the country’s key export commodities.

However, political tensions arising from the elections and the violence in the eastern part of the country remain the two biggest challenges for Mr Tshisekedi.

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