Democratic Republic of the Congo: Will Tshisekedi-Kabila Deal Hold?

The people of DRC may wait longer to get the new government as the deal which brought Etienne Tshisekedi to power may be difficult to implement. More than a month after the inauguration of the new President, the process of appointment of the government and leaders of key institutions has been slow due to unsaid but visible misunderstandings between President Tshisekedi’s camp and Kabila’s camp which has the parliamentary majority.  With only 47 seats in parliament for CACH coalition against 97 for Lamuka and 341 for FCC out of 500 seats in parliament, President Tshisekedi is handicapped and cannot proceed with appointment of the Prime Minister and cabinet members until he finds consensus with President Kabila.

Reports suggest that Joseph Kabila Kabange, who apparently feels badly in the shoes of former President, wants to keep control of power, by claiming the post of Prime Minister, the post of Speaker of Parliament and all key ministries, leaving nothing to his successor. An unverified document signed by the coordinator of Kabila FCC coalition and his former Director of Cabinet, Nehemie Mwilanya, has been circulating on social networks since 3 March 2019, suggesting that the coalition members support Kabila to the post of Prime Minister.

At the centre of the disagreement, there is a controversy of the appointment of the informer who should identify the parliamentary majority that will designate a Prime Minister, in accordance with the constitutional procedure. It is reported that Joseph Kabila who fears that his arch-rival and current Director of Cabinet for President Tshisekedi, could be designated as informer and use the opportunity to fish for opportunists in Kabila’s camp who could accept to join President Tshisekedi’s camp in exchange for positions in the government. Kabila knows that his coalition has been based on individual interests rather than convergence of political ideology.  He has therefore been advocating for direct appointment of a Prime Minister, hence bypassing the constitutional procedure, an idea which President Tshisekedi doesn’t want to buy as Kabila could seek to impose on him a person of his choice.

While waiting for the possible consensus, President Felix Tshisekedi has used his time to project himself as a leader who is focused on solving the people’s problems and improving the diplomatic standing of DRC, by not shying away from diplomatic engagements contrary to his predecessor. He has progressively gained legitimacy internally and international recognition. The support of Martin Fayulu, the Lamuka candidate who continues to reject the outcome of the last presidential elections, claiming that he is the true winner is waning, after the camp of Moise Katumbi officially recognized the election of Tshisekedi and called on Lamuka members to shift the focus to monitoring the rule of law and democracy. The eventual return of Moise Katumbi whose Congolese passport has already been issued is likely bolster Tshisekedi camp while at the same time weakening further Martin Fayulu. 

Despite not having experience in politics, President Tshisekedi appears to be a progressive leader who is determined to address issues that his processor did not mind about. He has already promised to release political prisoners, facilitate the return of political exiles, ensure that all illegal detention are closed, issue visas on arrival for members of the Diaspora, dominated by the “combatants” with foreign passports who would not dare to sneak in the country under Kabila.  Important to note, he has expressed his commitment to decisively get rid of armed groups in the eastern DRC.

On the diplomatic side, he has already visited Angola, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Namibia, participated in the 32nd AU Summit and met with the diplomatic community in Kinshasa on 15 Feb 19 for the annual exchange of New Year greetings, in which he indicated that the GoDRC will favor a foreign policy based on good relations and constructive dialogue with neighboring countries and active participation in regional blocks, including consideration to join East African Community. He also promised negotiations with the EU, which have led to the resumption of Schengen House visa services in Kinshasa and daily flights of SN Brussels between Brussels and Kinshasa.

On his side, former President Kabila has been consolidating his coalition to ensure that they stay together ahead of the appointment of the government and installation of other institutions. It is in this context that he met leaders of eighteen political parties of his coalition in his farm in Kingakati on 20 Feb 19 and their MPs in Nsele Park on 24 Feb 19, whereby they reiterated their loyalty to Kabila as their moral authority and claimed parliamentary majority by 341 MPs out of 500.

Delays in the formation of government are an indication of misunderstandings between CACH and FCC on power-sharing and agreement on the composition of the future government will determine whether Tshisekedi and Kabila stay together or divorce. In the meantime, voices will eventually be raised to request Kabila to step aside and let his successor exercise his mandate. The US sanctions against Kabila’s allies last month over manipulation of the electoral process and related corruption is perhaps the first indicator into that direction.

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