Around fifteen African presidents were present in Kinshasa on Saturday January 20.
Félix Tshisekedi was less alone than five years ago for his second swearing-in. In January 2019, on the occasion of the transfer of power with Joseph Kabila, following a political arrangement denounced by the rest of the opposition and by the Catholic Church, foreign heads of state preferred not to be associated with the ceremony, only Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the first “sponsor” of the political platform formed by Tshisekedi and Kamerhe two months earlier, had made the trip to Kinshasa.
Five years later, while the “re-election” of the head of state is still marked by the seal of the political arrangement coupled this time with electronic ballot stuffing and the Congolese people have had no say in the matter , around fifteen African heads of state were present in Kinshasa.
In this contingent, the representatives of the Community of Southern African States (SADC) were the most numerous and included among their ranks the presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Malawi. Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, was the head of the region. His country was the first in the SADC to deploy, in December, a military contingent in eastern DRC to support the effort of the Congolese troops and its allies (Western mercenaries, Congolese militias, Rwandan opponents and Burundian troops) facing rebel troops operating in the provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri.
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Having arrived more than a month ago, the South Africans, whose exact number and precise mission are unknown, have still not been joined by other SADC troops.
At the Martyrs’ Stadium, the center of Tshisekedian festivities, the neighbors of the East African community (EAC) were conspicuous by their absence.
In March 2022, the DRC of Félix Tshisekedi joined this regional community of the EAC and counted on the commitment of its States to restore peace in these provinces subject to violence for more than 25 years. But the experiment ended in failure.
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This Saturday, for Tshisekedi’s inauguration, only the Burundian Ndayishimiye (who sent several battalions to the east of the DRC following a recent bilateral agreement with Kinshasa) and the Kenyan Ruto (who did not want to give up his seat to his predecessor Kenyatta, who had been announced) were present. The Rwandan Paul Kagame was obviously absent given the strong tensions between the two countries but the heads of state of Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania were also conspicuous by their absence.
Looking more closely at the map of the DRC, the divide is clear between east and west. A divide which was also marked during the presidential election. Despite the control of the “friends of Tshisekedi” on the vote, the organizers were forced to give victory in greater Katanga to Moïse Katumbi who would also have won in the province of Maniema, just to the north of this group.
A geographical block in the south-east of the DRC with essential economic weight for the country. In addition to Burundi, on this border in the south-east of the DRC, we find Zambia which lives in symbiosis with Katanga and whose president very moderately appreciated the cries launched upon his arrival at the Martyrs stadium. Tshisekedi supporters shouted at President Hakainde Hichilema to repatriate Moïse Katumbi home. Cries born from the xenophobic campaign led during the presidential election by Félix Tshisekedi and his lieutenants against Moïse Katumbi accused of not being Congolese. East-west reconciliation within the borders of the DRC must be one of Tshisekedi’s essential missions.