Presidential election in the DRC: Tshisekedi Vs Katumbi, a match already played?

Presidential election in the DRC: Tshisekedi Vs Katumbi, a match already played?

D-1 before going to the polls which often promises to be complicated for 44 million voters.

Officially, the electoral campaign will be over this December 19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after a month of overheating, popular mobilization and divisive speeches, especially between the two big favorites in this race for the presidency: the outgoing Félix Tshisekedi and his only real challenger Moïse Katumbi.

DRCongo: The Tshisekedi – Katumbi match can begin

From the announcement of the validation of Moïse Katumbi’s candidacy by the Constitutional Court on October 30, there was no doubt that this campaign was going to be summed up in a fight between the former governor of Katanga and the outgoing president. The two men knew each other, rubbed shoulders – perhaps liked each other – for some time when they found themselves in opposition to Joseph Kabila, before tearing each other apart the day after the nomination of Martin Fayulu as joint opposition candidate, on November 11, 2018 in Geneva.

Between the two former Brussels exiles, the situation quickly turned sour and the divorce was definitively consummated publicly during family festivities in Kinshasa organized by the President of the Republic. On this occasion, the head of state wanted to relegate his former “great friend Moïse” to an anonymous table, celebrating with his new friends Bemba and Kamerhe among others. The message was clear. Public humiliation. The definitive separation.

Over the months, tension continued to rise and the electoral campaign was a bitter and merciless fight between the two men.

A fight which, so far, has allowed the challenger to position himself in the middle of the ring. He was the one who dictated the tempo. He who hit the hardest. Who mobilized millions of Congolese throughout a tour worthy of a rock star. Katumbi, prevented from participating in the 2018 election, had put his resources and logistics at the service of Martin Fayulu who had succeeded in capturing the crowds and who, without the unfair agreement between Kabila and Tshisekedi, should have been declared the clear winner of this ballot.

This was not the case, but Moïse Katumbi, this time a candidate, took over the recipes he had concocted for Martin Fayulu. He set up a real “war machine” throughout the campaign. Even physically, the man appeared sharp, “dry”, like a cyclist at the start of the Tour de France, before embarking on this marathon which saw him walk several kilometers every day to reach his podiums for overheated meetings. Candidate number 3 played close; physical contact, even if it meant putting himself in danger, where his opponents preferred to be dropped off at the back of the podiums. The communication worked. the images of these human tides knocked out his opponents, even forcing the presidential candidate to review his campaign marketing several times.

The divide

Moïse Katumbi’s campaign left its mark. It has given rise to more than just doubt in the ranks of power. It even destabilized an international community which was beginning to count, without pleasure, as if inevitable, on an extension of Tshisekedi’s mandate at the end of a botched election but a minor protest quickly put to rest.

We knew that these elections were potentially fraught with violence because they were poorly prepared, because the ruling clan wants to stay there at all costs. Katumbi’s determination and his popularity, particularly in the east of the country, make us understand that any cheating desired by those in power will not be an easy task.recognizes, under the seal of anonymity, a European diplomat.

Our employees have been expecting for some time to have to stay home for a few days after the election. For them, trouble is inevitable”, explains a boss based in the capital. Several testimonies explain that Kasaïans (province of Tshisekedi) who have lived, sometimes for many years, in the former Grand Katanga (province of Katumbi) preferred to leave their homes for fear of an explosion of violence.

The radicalization of speeches is scary”, explains an attentive observer of Congolese politics for years. For him, the risk is real. “In recent years, Katumbi has often been the one to relieve the pressure. This time, there will not be a personality capable of reducing the tension which is already very strong between Katangese and Kasaians. More generally ; the east of the Swahili-speaking country, which is the majority, will side with Katumbi”. Katanga is obvious. Maniema, stronghold of Salomon Kalonda, Katumbi’s right-hand man, imprisoned in Tshisekedi’s jails, and of Kabila’s former Prime Minister, Matata Ponyo, who lined up behind the ex-governor of Katanga, also seems to be escaping to Tshisekedi who will also have to deal with his catastrophic record in South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri. It is therefore the entire eastern part of the DRC which is promised to Katumbi. The businessman, boss of the TP Mazembe football club, should also gain votes in the former Orientale Province abandoned by Tshisekedi. Katumbi can also count on the votes of a central Kongo, always rebellious towards the power in place. The former Bandundu, Fayulu’s playground, should not fill Tshisekedi’s purse which must, as in 2018, be concentrated on the provinces of Kasai and a significant base in Kinshasa.

Provided, obviously, that the power organizing this election takes into account the voice of the voters…