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DR Congo: Félix Tshisekedi's balance sheet, one year after the work-study program

2020-01-24T20:40:03.665Z

Diplomatic activism, public liberties and populism ... Since taking power in January 2019, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, has been trying to stand out from the crowd ...



"He's a president from the outside," taunts a Congolese diaspora contacted by France 24 and who requested anonymity. He alludes to the numerous trips to the West by Félix Tshisekedi, who took power in the Democratic Republic of Congo just a year ago, after a high-powered presidential election.

Aware of having his hands tied and that he will not be free to govern as he sees fit, Félix Tshisekedi has multiplied trips from the start of his mandate, particularly in Belgium, France and the United States, to go out his country of isolation. "His activism in Europe and the United States also aims to reverse the balance of power internally. He knows that his predecessor no longer has international support except for a few allies on the continent. But he speaks everyone, "said Trésor Kibangula, an analyst for the New York-based Congo Studies Group (GEC).

The election in January 2019 of the son of the historic opponent Etienne Tshisekedi, long opposed to the Kabila (father and son), had marked for the first time a peaceful alternation at the head of this immense country of central Africa. But for Joseph Kabila, who remained in power for 18 years, to give up his chair, Félix Tshisekedi, head of the Cach alliance, had to agree to form a coalition with the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) movement of his predecessor which controls the Parliament and has solid relays in the security apparatus.

As a result, the new Congolese president found himself after seven months of negotiations with a bloated government of 65 ministers and a hundred advisers composed two-thirds by members of the Kabila clan.

Although the alliance he chairs has been able to obtain essential ministries such as the Interior, the Economy and Foreign Affairs, Félix Tshiskedi does not have any real power to exercise his prerogatives as head of state. he has also repeatedly punched the table to warn the ministers still loyal to Joseph Kabila who question his orders.

Like Clément Kuete Nymi Bemuna, Minister of the Portfolio, or José Sele Yalaghuli, Minister of Finance. The first has blocked presidential orders appointing senior executives to head Gécamines, the Congolese mining giant, and the National Railway Company since June 2019. And the second is reluctant to release funds for the execution of certain projects.

A coalition under tension

Sunday in London, during a meeting with the Congolese diaspora on the sidelines of the United Kingdom-Africa summit on investment, the Congolese president threatened to "fire" ministers if his coalition partners undermined his power. "The Congolese entrusted me with a mission and I have to report to this people. And whoever does not follow my instructions and who will stick to the instructions of his political family, he will be fired," said Félix Tshisekedi. "So far, I have not seen any minister oppose my decisions. But some ministers tell me that they are under pressure," he added in a speech in Lingala, the country's national language. .

Proof of real tensions within the coalition, the head of state also brandished the threat of the dissolution of the National Assembly: "I cannot dissolve the National Assembly until there is crisis". But in case of "obstruction", "I will be forced, ultimately, to make [this] decision".

"Félix Tshisekedi has no real control over the army or the Parliament. Threatening to dissolve the Assembly is perhaps a way of putting pressure on Joseph Kabila's FCC and leaving room for maneuver. But it is a risk that the president would not take. Nothing is less sure that he will obtain results other than those of the preceding legislative ones, "estimates Trésor Kibangula.

A possible dissolution of the Assembly before the next elections in 2023 "would be an atomic bomb", with "uncontrollable consequences", said for his part to AFP Richard Moncrieff, expert of the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank. "Tshisekedi has issued threats but his plan A is to continue the coalition with Kabila," he adds.

"Describing the political climate"

This is not the first time that Félix Tshisekedi has made a harsh speech against the Kabila camp. During an official visit to the United States in April 2019, he said he wanted to "unbolt the dictatorial system that was in place" by fighting against "corruption, bad governance" and "arbitrary arrests", during a press conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.

"These very offensive comments, often made outside the country, are certainly to tame the Congolese diaspora known for its hostility against the old regime," said Trésor Kibangula, GEC analyst.

Is right. One of the first strong measures taken by President Tshisekedi to break with his predecessor, was to release two months after his inauguration several hundred political prisoners and to allow the return of political exiles like the opponent Moïse Katumbi. "This made it possible to decipher the political climate which was extremely tense in 2018 a few months before the elections. And we can now demonstrate peacefully in the country without being worried. This was not the case under Joseph Kabila," said Trésor Kibangula.

"Political and social appeasement" is President Tshisekedi's greatest achievement, a diplomat stationed in Kinshasa also told AFP.

Félix Tshisekedi also marked a major social blow by announcing free education in public schools. The measure entered into force in September. "It is a very strong but populist measure, which is applauded by everyone. Free education is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it has never been applied. This relieves households a lot. But the measure does dissatisfied teachers who have had their salaries reduced, "says Trésor Kibangula.

For 2020, the President has promulgated an estimated annual budget of more than $ 10 billion, nearly double the previous budget ($ 6 billion). It should make it possible to finance important development programs. But faced with this budget that several analysts consider unrealistic, Félix Tshisekedi replied to the microphone of Jeune Afrique: "Some people did not understand that times had changed. For a big Congo, big ambitions are needed."

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Source: france24

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