DRC: The presidential campaign is off to a flying start

DRC: The presidential campaign is off to a flying start

The remote duel between Félix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi dominates the entire political scene.

The lieutenants of the main opposition candidates failed to prepare the ground for an agreement between their champion to nominate a common candidate against outgoing President Félix Tshisekedi. The meeting that began at the beginning of last week in Pretoria, South Africa, quickly demonstrated that it would be impossible to find a sufficient common denominator between Martin Fayulu, Delly Sesanga, Augustin Matata Ponyo, Denis Mukwege or Moïse Katumbi.

The South African mediators gave the impression of not mastering their subject, of discovering that tensions were much higher than they thought between the candidates.

From the start, the Fayulu and Matata camps seemed impossible to reconcile. “It was very tense”recognizes one of the participants in this negotiation who, like several others, point out “the tension around candidate Fayulu. No one in his camp was able to explain the underlying reasons for his about-face regarding his participation in the presidential election after having called on the members of his party not to register for the legislative elections. This is incomprehensible and has given rise to suspicion in Pretoria.”

There was too much ego,” explains another observer who does not bury the idea that groups could still be organized. “Look what’s happening. Matata was the first to join Katumbi. Diongo and Kikuni followed suit. They don’t bring many voices but they have created a dynamic and they have shown that the construction of certain fronts is possible”.

Visiting Brussels last weekend, Floribert Anzuluni, the leader of the Filimbi movement, candidate no. 5 in the presidential election who wears the colors of civil society, mentioned this possibility of reaching an agreement with other candidates in a close future. “We have a little time left. We are open if a project convinces us, we can come together,” he explained on the eve of the launch of the campaign which should last a month, until the eve of the convening of the electoral body on December 20.

Tshisekedi is already mobilizing Kinshasa

Félix Tshisekedi, the outgoing president seeking a second term, was the first to enter the arena with a meeting set for Sunday, November 19 at the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa. A stadium well-stocked by the president’s supporters but also by all the lieutenants of the different groups who joined his Sacred Union of the Nation, the political platform created to support his candidacy.

It’s surprising to launch your campaign in Kinshasa, explains a member of Joseph Kabila’s FCC who, for his part, boycotted until the end this electoral process which he considers “completely biased” by the power in place. “In general, we finish in Kinshasa with strong momentum behind us. Here, there was the image of a very well-filled stadium but the next day, the images of Kongo central were less euphoric”.

In this long-distance fight between the two heavyweights of this campaign, it was Moïse Katumbi who scored points at the start of the week with a particularly impressive mobilization in Kisangani. “The man and his team have prepared this campaign, you can feel it. Nothing is improvised,” explains an agent from an international structure based in Kinshasa. “His speech is already rehearsed and the points of attack against a power which sorely lacks a record are well exploited. At the same time, Tshisekedi’s speech lacks steam.”

The weight of observation

But this thunderous start to the campaign by the two main candidates does not silence those who still question the holding of the polls. “The rainy season is the worst adversary of the Independent National Electoral Commission”explains a diplomat who judges “some very late deployments. Everyone here knows that everything becomes more complicated in this season. The Ceni had to anticipate, a postponement is always possible in these conditions.”

For another diplomat, “Victory is not at stake today. Congolese voters are not fooled. They know very well who they will vote for. Obviously, it is important for a candidate to show up, but it will be especially important to be present in the polling stations to monitor the electoral operations. This is where victory will be played out.” The Catholic Church and its little Protestant sister will have a crucial mission on December 20 by being attentive observers of this election and, this time, unlike what happened in 2018, they should publish the results collected with the approval of the international community.