When President Tshisekedi promised during his inaugural speech that his presidency would be marked by a new era of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, release of all political prisoners and end to all forms of discrimination, very few observers would hope that he will succeed, considering that he didn’t have full Command and Control of security organs, who were involved in repression.
In a bid to fulfill his promises, on 14 Mar 19, President Tshisékédi released 700 political prisoners including Firmin Yangambi, a Lawyer and human activist, and Franck Diongo, both former political opponents under Kabila regime. Ex-military commanders who had defected in 2012 to join ex-M23 rebel groups, including Cols Bernard Byamungu, Samuel Sabimana and Jean Pierre Mushamuka Bahati were released from Ndolo prison in Kinshasa.
His actions are progressively consigning former President Joseph Kabila to history, increasingly asserting Tshisekedi’s independence from him, despite the latter’s attempt to control politics through domination of all key positions, including trying to impose a Prime Minister of his choice, which President Tshisekedi has so far resisted.
He has also been taking a hard stance in tackling corruption, by suspending, on 13 Mar 19, Lumeya Dhu Maleghi, Minister of the Environment for insubordination and for failing tackling the expropriation issues, while Oscar Manikindu, the Director General of Posts and Telecommunications and Daniel Mukoko Samba, the Director General of Ports and Transports Enterprise were suspended over mismanagement allegations.
Diplomacy is evidently helping President Tshisekedi achieving his goals, with the US and France asking him to act indecently, and the former going far to impose sanctions against members of the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court, who were involved in electoral fraud and other embezzlement of electoral funds. Kabila might too find himself on the list of sanctions if he continues to pull the strings.
In only two months since taking office, he has met the following Heads of State either through state visits or at international meetings held across the continent.
- João Lourenço, Angola (state visit)
- Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya (state visit, AU sidelines in Ethiopia, UN meeting in Nairobi)
- Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Republic of Congo (state visit)
- Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Egypt (AU sidelines)
- Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast (AU)
- Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea (AU)
- Alpha Condé, Guinea (AU)
- Paul Kagame, Rwanda (AU, Africa CEO meeting in Kigali)
- Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa (AU)
- Hage Geingob, Namibia (state visit)
- Emmanuel Macron of France, Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar, Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka (UN meeting)
- Faure Gnassingbé, Togo (courtesy visit)
- Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Central African President (courtesy visit)
- Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Uganda (courtesy visit)
- Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia (Africa CEO Forum)
His statement at the recently concluded Africa CEO Forum in Rwanda, whereby he called on the leaders in the region to champion integration and “build bridges, not walls”, adding that “Our countries will be neighbors forever. We are just temporary leaders so we shouldn’t focus on irrelevant issues”; shows a progressive leader who is focused on the future of his country and the African continent, rather than being held hostage of the past. This was even emphasized by the visit and laying of wreaths to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the first of its kind a visiting DR Congo President has had.
He is now on a visit in the US, from 3 to 5 April 2019, on the invitation by the US administration, the first outside Africa, which is expected to embolden his diplomatic posture and help contain Kabila’s meddling.