To crit­ics, Congo’s new leader is in­ex­pe­ri­enced and lacks the charisma of his fa­ther

The East African - - NEWS - By Fred Oluoch

FOR SOME­ONE whose elec­tion as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment was in­val­i­dated be­cause of ab­sen­teeism, to be­come pres­i­dent is a ma­jor turn­around for Felix Tshisekedi.

The 55-year-old politi­cian comes from a po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty, which makes it eas­ier for out­go­ing pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila, the son of a for­mer pres­i­dent, to feel com­fort­able with him. Crit­ics say he is un­proven (he lived too long in Brussels), in­ex­pe­ri­enced and lacks the charisma of his fa­ther, the late Eti­enne Tshisekedi.

Eti­enne be­came the doyen of op­po­si­tion pol­i­tics in the DRC when he de­fied then pres­i­dent Mobutu Sese Seko and told him to his face to in­tro­duce mul­ti­part pol­i­tics or per­ish.

But the younger Tshisekedi just in­her­ited the con­stituency of his fa­ther and the loy­alty to the Union for Democ­racy and So­cial Progress (UDPS) — the old­est and largest op­po­si­tion party in DRC.

Opin­ion polls be­fore the op­po­si­tion talks for a sin­gle can­di­date in Geneva in Novem­ber last year showed that Mr Tshisekedi was lead­ing as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with 36 per cent, fol­lowed by Vi­tal Kamerhe (17 per cent) Mr Em­manuel Shadary at 16 per cent.

But when the op­po­si­tion chose Martin Fayulu, Mr Tshisekedi teamed up with Mr Kamerhe—the leader of the Union for the Con­golese Na­tion (UNC) party—to form a coali­tion in Nairobi on Novem­ber 22, 2018.

Moise Ka­tumbi and Jean Pierre Bemba—the duo who had been barred from con­test­ing — did not trust Mr Tshisekedi be­cause they claimed he could be com­pro­mised by Ka­bila.

Known sim­ply as “Fat­shi”, Mr Tshise-

kedi was a re­luc­tant politi­cian, who was forced to take over the lead­er­ship of the UDPS in March 2018 after the death of his fa­ther in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

House ar­rest

Born in Léopoldville (now Kin­shasa) on June 13, 1963, Mr Tshisekedi, of Luba eth­nic­ity, hails from Ka­sai Prov­ince in south­west­ern Congo, border­ing An­gola.

He had a com­fort­able life as a youth in the cap­i­tal Kin­shasa. But when his fa­ther cre­ated UDPS in the early 1980s to op­pose Mobutu, the fam­ily was put un­der house ar­rest in their na­tive vil­lage in cen­tral Kasaï, which forced the young Felix to end his stud­ies.

Later in 1985, Mobutu au­tho­rised him, his mother, and his broth­ers to leave Kasaï. He went on to live in Brussels, where he did odd jobs, en­joyed the night life, and be­came an ac­tive UDPS ac­tivist around Europe.

In 2008, Tshisekedi was named the UDPS Na­tional Sec­re­tary for ex­ter­nal re­la­tions.

In 2011, he won the seat in the Na­tional Assem­bly, rep­re­sent­ing the city of Mbuji Mayi in Ka­sai-ori­en­tal Prov­ince. He did not take up the seat, cit­ing a fraud­u­lent elec­tion that Joseph Ka­bila won against his fa­ther, and his seat was later in­val­i­dated for ab­sen­teeism.

In March 2018, he was elected to lead the UDPS, after his fa­ther's death on Fe­bru­ary 1, 2017, and be­came the party's pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. On Jan­uary 10, 2019, he was de­clared the win­ner of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Pic­ture: AFP

The late Eti­enne Tshisekedi is sur­rounded by jour­nal­ists in Kin­shasa in 2016.

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