DRC: After a short week of campaigning, power is cracking

DRC: After a short week of campaigning, power is cracking

In the middle of the presidential campaign, the postponement of the vote resurfaces.

Having come to power following an agreement with his predecessor Joseph Kabila, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi intends to extend his tenure at the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo by winning the presidential election scheduled for December 20.

To achieve its goals, after breaking its agreement with Joseph Kabila, the presidency organized itself to install its men at all levels of the future election. She bought a large parliamentary majority, before imposing her judges on the Constitutional Court and placing her candidate at the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni).

DRC: The presidential campaign is off to a flying start

With this team, Félix Tshisekedi thought he was playing on velvet and being able to consider a second term with complete peace of mind.

But the first week of the presidential campaign demonstrated that this great confidence did not pass muster when meeting the electorate. From the first meetings in Kongo-central, the presidential machinery encountered the anger of a population which has, in particular, not forgotten the Register of Mobile Devices (RAM) and the tax it induced which hit all phone top-ups and therefore all Congolese. Despite the disappearance of this tax a few months ago – never voted on in parliament – ​​the population demanded accountability from the presidential candidate with cries of “thieves”. The same little music was repeated in other meetings which struggled to attract crowds, despite state resources diverted for the benefit of the candidate.

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The Katumbi thorn

The 2023 scenario is reminiscent of that which prevailed in 2018. At the time, all state resources had been captured for the benefit of Emmanuel Shadary, Kabila’s heir apparent. The power in place had a majority in Parliament, a Constitutional Court and a Ceni at its behest. However, despite this advantage, Emmanuel Shadary’s campaign came up against the revolt of the field which sought to free itself from the Kabilie after seventeen years of undivided power and two years of forced cohabitation which had still damaged the image of a regime incapable of renewing itself.

Here, after five years of management as chaotic as it is erratic, the power of Félix Tshisekedi, built on an ethnic component, shows that he is in great suffering, incapable of bringing peace to the East, having to face numerous pockets of insecurity in several provinces, without forgetting the weight of predation from the regime’s inner circle.

DRCongo: The Tshisekedi – Katumbi match can begin

In 2018, the population lined up behind Martin Fayulu, joint opposition candidate. In 2023, this opposition did not manage to unite, but it saw the emergence of a candidate who immediately established himself as the main – if not only – opponent of the outgoing president: Moïse Katumbi. The former governor of Greater Katanga, deprived of the presidential race in 2018.

The man took the time to build a political machine through his party Ensemble pour la République, he brought together a few “small” candidates but above all he launched into a worthy electoral rally “of an American-style campaign”, as a Kinshasa observer explains. Katumbi is popular, he is determined and he speaks clearly to his audience. Opposite him, Félix Tshisekedi is on the ropes. Behind these two men, there is emptiness. The Mukwege, Fayulu, Sesanga remained glued to the starting line. Lack of resources, of relays, they are already irremediably abandoned.

Postponement of the vote?

DRC: Why the 2023 presidential election is in great danger

At the CENI level, we have no proof that there will indeed be an election on December 20. And if there were to be, we have no certainty that it will take place under the best conditions of transparency. There is therefore a risk of disorder in our country”. This is how Cardinal Ambongo addressed Catholics this Sunday, November 26, reviving fears of a postponement of the vote a little more than three weeks before the deadline. So far, both President Tshisekedi and Ceni President Denis Kadima have rejected this possibility despite a faulty electoral register, millions of defective voter cards and untraceable mapping of polling stations. Félix Tshisekedi’s mandate runs until January 24, 2024, beyond this date, he will have to place his powers in the hands of the President of the Senate… unless there is an unlikely consensus to extend his “reign” for a few months. His failing regime, his inability to reign and his poor relations with most of his neighbors bode well for difficulties in finding this compromise. In this context, the DRC risks quickly facing colossal challenges carrying all the dangers for the stability of the country and the entire region.