Long-time opposition leader and stalwart of Congolese politics,
Etienne Tshisekedi has died in Brussels aged 84. He reportedly died
of a pulmonary embolism having flown to Belgium on 24th January for
medical treatment1. So, what fate for the ongoing
negotiations to end the political impasse in the DRC now that such
a prominent figure has departed the scene?
What Happens Now?
The most immediate action that needs to be taken is to quell any
unrest arising from the announcement of Tshisekedi's death.
There have already been clashes between police and UDPS supporters
who had gathered outside his residence with tear gas being used to
disperse the crowds2. Next will be the business of his
funeral. Due to his having been a prime minister, the government
spokesman has said that he will be offered a state
The most difficult aspect will be the continuation of
The Rassemblement being offered the presidency of the CNSA and
the role of prime minister had a been a point of contention for
parties from both the majority and the opposition4.
In particular, the planned appointment of Tshisekedi's son
Felix as PM5 has been a major stumbling block in the
ongoing dialogue with the ruling Majorite Presidentielle (MP)
insisting that a number of candidates must be proposed for Kabila
to choose from rather than the Rassemblement desire to pose only
In the absence of Tshisekedi, the position of CNSA president
will have to be renegotiated and it is likely that other parties
will stake a claim. And despite there having been no agreement so
far, questions will almost definitely be raised about the post of
PM as well.
The UDPS as a party will have to choose a new leader with
secretary general Bruno Mavungu currently in pole position.
However, if it is put to a vote, we should expect Felix Tshisekedi
and Roger Luambala, who recently returned from exile as part of the
accord7, to also be among the favourites.
There is hope in some circles that Tshisekedi's demise may
act as a catalyst leading for the swift and amicable conclusion of
negotiations. Many stakeholders have already declared that all
parties should work together to properly honour his
legacy89. Though this is a nice thought,
given the suspected ambition to keep Kabila in power beyond the end
of the year, this provides opportunity for "glissement"
in the implementation of the accord.
The renegotiations that must take place will likely delay the
inauguration of the transitional government set for March. There is
also a risk of factions emerging within the UDPS given that
Tshisekedi, such a strong leader for the party, must be replaced.
If cracks start to appear and internal disagreements arise, this
will again further complicate and delay the negotiations.
The security forces will have to be on high alert for
flashpoints e.g. return of Tshisekedi's body to the DRC and the
funeral itself – where gatherings could well reach in to the
hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, although there has as yet been
no accusation of foul play in the UDPS founder's death; if such
allegations do arise, largescale protests by opposition supporters
will likely follow and could lead to the withdrawal of opposition
parties from the accord.
Many were surprised to see a Minister of Regional Re-organisation & Development' included amongst the second batch of ministerial appointees announced by Ghana's new President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
He was the first law graduate of a free Congo in 1961 and was for a
long time, a loyalist of President Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-1997),
holding the roles of Minster of Interior and Minister of
Justice for example.
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