Tshisekedi taking political, economic challenges head on

Saturday March 28 2020

President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo presented himself as the change the country needed, after becoming the first civilian leader in the country to ascend to power peacefully.

Tshisekedi has achieved a number of firsts, starting with paying homage to Joseph Kasavubu, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, past leaders whose ascension to power varied controversially.

It is a fact that DR Congo has always had complicated political dynamics, but one thing President Tshisekedi did not sign up for, was jumping straight into two health crises in quick succession.

First it was Ebola. When he took office in January 2019, the virus had ravaged parts of the country for seven months, killing about 1,300 people. When the last patient left hospital two weeks ago, some 2,251 people had died.

Ebola had been in the Congo since 1970s, but the just ended outbreak was the biggest thus far. The exact toll of Ebola on the national economy is yet to be quantified as the country still needs some four more weeks to be declared free of the disease by the World Health Organisation.

But one assessment by the World Bank last year said that Ebola had intensified insecurity and poverty, which is now at 73 per cent, two things that are an obvious challenge to any economy.



Another study by the Mercy Corps, a charity that worked in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak that killed 11,000 people in 2016, said the disease had by cut off transport links and forced neighbouring countries to shut borders, usually essential to trade, making bad economies worse.

Yet as the country was preparing to celebrate Ebola’s end, the SARs-Cov-2 virus that causes the Covid-19 disease was detected in the country. By Thursday, the country had 51 cases, two recoveries and four deaths, according to Congolese Health Minister Eteni Longido.

Now as the virus bites an already feeble health system, some observers think Tshisekedi may have to resort to a political decision.

Carbone Beni, a deputy leader of the Filimbi Movement, once proscribed by the Joseph Kabila government, but whose imprisoned members were freed by the Tshisekedi, says the relation between Kabila and Tshisekedi could be the problem.

“It is an embodiment of what we opposed: Attacks against the media and the free press and civil rights.”

Tshisekedi who has so far given access to justice to all Congolese and is fighting corruption, is using the two as his "levers" to succeed in his first five-year term. He has since appointed new magistrates.

However, observers like Georges Kapiamba, the co-ordinator of a non-government organisation for access to justice says that the president must do more for real justice in the DR Congo.