Tshisekedi prepares for December election as opposition still split

Saturday October 07 2023

DRC Congo President Felix Tshisekedi gestures during a press meeting. PHOTO | AFP


Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission is expected to announce the list of the presidential candidates as the registration window closes on Sunday.

That will at least give a sign that the elections will be held on December 20 as planned.

This week, political parties were firming up their strategies, targeting to replace the incumbent Felix Tshisekedi who is defending the seat.

As of October 5, 10 presidential hopefuls had submitted their bids to the polls body. President Tshisekedi has been fronted by the ruling coalition, the Nation's Sacred Union.

Read: Tshisekedi endorsed to run for DRC presidency

Delly Sessanga, a Member of Parliament, said he would officially join the race on October 7.


All the candidacies will be submitted to the Constitutional Court for final validation. But that has not stopped aspirants from bracing for the battle.

No defections have been recorded in the ranks of the Sacred Union, for now. President Tshisekedi's coalition has set up a campaign team led by directors in all 26 provinces.

The president’s camp said 11 people close to him comprise the campaign inner circle. This group dubbed Équipe forte (Strong team) is led by François Mwamba, President Tshisekedi's strategy adviser, and includes former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, influential in northwest; Vital Kamerhe (Minister for the Economy), Bahati Lukwebo (Speaker of the Senate), eastern DRC’s influential leader Christophe Mboso, and Prime Minister Sama Lukonde.

Read: Tshisekedi’s headache in quest to win upcoming presidential poll

Added to these are the 26 provincial governors. Every province will have a campaign centre composed of various grassroots leaders supporting the work of President's party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress.

The opposition are still scattered, although there has been talk in the streets of a possible coalition candidate capable of belling Tshisekedi.

Presidential hopeful Adolphe Muzito, who abruptly abandoned Martin Fayulu (who is also in this contest) in 2018, has declared that “It's still possible,” but that “it depends on each of our programmes and whether there is convergence.”

“But, I'm thinking that it's very difficult,” Mr Muzito said. He added, however, that he and the members of his party will be looking at the policies similar to theirs among other candidates.

Dr Denis Mukwege, the gynaecologist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, when asked whether an alliance with the leading opposition figures was possible, he replied: “I have never said that I should go alone.”

Read: DRC Nobel laureate launches presidential bid

“We have to go with people who share the same values as those we defend. There are several presidential candidates who, when I talk to them, I feel that we share the same values,” Dr Mukwege said in Kinshasa after submitting his papers on Tuesday.

“When the time comes, we can get together. I believe that today it is in our interest to work with all those who believe that change is possible.”

Mr Fayulu, who managed to win over almost all the major opposition leaders in 2018, even though Vital Kamerhe and Félix Tshisekedi left the alliance to form a coalition that eventually was declared the winner of the elections, believes that he is the major Tshisekedi opponent. For years, he has claimed that he was rigged out of the 2018 vote.

“Among all these candidates, who is more popular than me? Who is more experienced?" He told journalists who whether the opposition would rally behind a single candidate to face President Tshisekedi.

“Among all those candidates, who has ever denounced the ills of the country more than I have? They were hiding opponents. My word is the word of the people.”

Moïse Katumbi, former governor of Katanga and chair of football club TP Mazembe, is also in the race. He and Delly Sessanga believe that “faced with Tshisekedi, it is the opposition’s victory to lose.”

The opposition leaders (Martin Fayulu, Delly Sessanga, Moïse Katumbi and Matata Ponyo) ganged up to protest and make demands of the electoral commission to reform, and that appeared to be their only point of convergence as they are no longer going together to rallies.

Read: DRC nationality draft law seen as discriminative

They have all eschewed any discussions on an alliance. They are likely to move forward separately, each presenting himself as the real alternative.

In this multiplicity of opposition voices, another presidential hopeful, Constant Mutamba, a 35-year-old lawyer, believes that “the people are tired of the same faces and the same names.” Mutamba presents himself as “the candidate of disruption.”

He has even announced his intention to take Denis Mukwege to court for “plagiarism” of his campaign theme of "rupture,” which implies that he is disrupting elite politics.