New opposition alliance shakes up DRC election

Sunday November 25 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader of the UNC party Vital Kamerhe (2nd left) speaks next to Felix Tshisekedi of the UDF party as he announces his support to Tshisekedi for the presidential election in December during a press conference in Nairobi, on Friday. PHOTO | AFP 

Nairobi. Prominent DR Congo opposition figures Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe on Friday announced a new alliance that looks set to shake up next month’s crucial presidential elections.

The announcement came exactly a month before voters head to the polls to chose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled this volatile, poverty-stricken nation with an iron fist since 2001.

But the watershed election has highlighted deep divisions among the opposition that earlier this month scuppered a historic deal to unite behind a single candidate to take on Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

On November 11, seven opposition leaders -- including Tshisekedi and Kamerhe -- agreed to back Martin Fayulu as the unity candidate.

But following grassroots opposition from their parties, the pair withdrew their support, and on Friday they announced they would be running on a joint ticket at a press conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Under the deal, signed in front of cameras, Tshisekedi would become president and Kamerhe, who will be his campaign director, would assume the post of prime minister should they win. “We are here to sign an agreement for a ticket to go together to elections,” Kamerhe said. “I decide today to support Tshisekedi as the president of Congo.”

Their withdrawal from the pact to unite behind Fayulu had left the opposition weakened and in disarray.

Tshisekedi is the son of DR Congo’s most famous oppositionist, Etienne Tshisekedi, while Kamerhe, a former National Assembly president, ran against Kabila in 2011.

Promising a “break with bad governance” Kamerhe said, “We are going to run Congo differently, we are not among those who say, ‘We come to power, it’s our turn to eat!’”

Tshisekedi promised a return to the rule of law, to fight the “gangrene” of corruption and to bring peace to the east of the country. Eastern DR Congo has been ravaged by decades of inter-ethnic bloodshed and militia violence, and has recently been hit by a deadly Ebola outbreak, testing a large UN peacekeeping mission deployed in the country.

Array of candidates

Twenty-one candidates are registered to run in the race to replace 47-year-old Kabila, who has ruled since his father, president Laurent-Desire Kabila, was assassinated in 2001.

Kabila’s second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he has remained in office thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution. (AFP)