Congo-Kinshasa: RDC - Félix Tshisekedi's Shaky Position

Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo being sworn in as president of the DR Congo.
analysis

With no majority in the legislature in a semi-presidential system of government, the new DRC leader's powers appear curbed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC's Félix Tshisekedi, was on January 10, 2019 declared winner of the December 30, 2018 presidential poll with 38.57 per cent of the vote, against 34.8 per cent for the runner-up, Martin Fayulu. President Joseph Kabila's preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came a distant third. Backed a report of the country's bishops' conference, Fayulu cried foul, insisting he won the poll with 61 per cent of votes. Though Tshisekedi eventually took office on January 24, 2019, marking DRC's first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, his position remains shaky.

Some people have even gone as far as describing Tshisekedi as a "lame duck" president, though he has entered into a coalition with his predecessor. The pro-Kabila Common Front for Congo, FCC coalition controls overwhelming majorities in parliament, senate, provincial assemblies and positions of provincial governors and their deputies. More than three months since taking over office, President Tshisekedi is still to name a prime minister and appoint a cabinet.

This is suggestive of continuing horse-trading with the Kabila camp. According to Jeune Afrique magazine, the "political coalition agreement" allegedly stipulates that the position of Prime Minister - in line with the constitution - will to go to a pro-Kabila lawmaker; while the defence, foreign affairs and interior portfolios will go to Kabila's party. Same for the senate leadership. The former President will become a senator for life, as well as retain considerable influence over daily official affairs.

There is talk that Kabila will have some sort of veto power on appointments in strategic areas like defence, finance, and the Governor of the Central Bank. Moreover, "the dismissal or transfer of commanders of major army and police units cannot take place without Kabila's advice," Jeune Afrique magazine said, citing an unnamed source. Tshisekedi on February 1, 2019 received all army generals and provincial commanders at the Presidential Palace. Three days later, he visited Tshatshi Military Barracks - the largest in the capital, Kinshasa, promising better conditions for soldiers.

He blocked public accounts so that outgoing ministers could not abscond with money, and ordered backlog payments for striking Transco workers, getting the public transport buses running again. In mid-February 2019, Néhemie Mwilanya Wilondja, Kabila's former Chief of Staff, began coordinating activities of the FCC coalition that boasts 351 out of the 500 seats in parliament.

On February 20, 2019, Joseph Kabila summoned leaders of the 18 political parties that comprise FCC to his farm at Kangakati near Kinshasa. He got all of them to sign a commitment, reaffirming their loyalty to him to ensure that no FCC partner decamps to Tshisekedi. "Joseph Kabila will no longer be visible, but he will remain in power," warned former Kabila Prime Minister, Samy Badibanga.

For the moment, Tshisekedi is "stuck" with the coalition deal reached with Kabila. But in a year's time - when the Constitution allows it - he can dissolve parliament, call fresh elections and hopefully put an end to the FCC's legislative dominance. Until then, Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila are closely watching each other's slightest political moves.

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