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DRC: People to watch in Tshisekedi’s alliance

By The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 7 July 2021 15:57, updated on Friday, 9 July 2021 12:30

Jean-Marc Kabund, secretary general of Congolese main opposition party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) speaks during a press conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

President Félix Tshisekedi’s new Union Sacrée parliamentary majority has personalities from different parties and with different points of view. We have this look at his allies - both old and new - which are key to whether the president will be able to achieve his reforms and policy goals.

Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund: The strategist

Aged 39, Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund engineered the downfall of the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), the formidable political machine that guaranteed a certain amount of power for former president Kabila.

This makes Kabund one of the pillars of the new majority in government and a key figure on many strategic issues. He regained his position as first vice-president of the national assembly in early February, after having masterfully led the revolution that brought down the FCC.

Kabund had been removed from the parliamentary cabinet in May 2020, but this freed him up to act. With the mobilisation experience he had gained as interim president of the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social, Tshisekedi’s Cap pour le Changement (Cach) platform found its man to turn the tide in its favour.

Modeste Bahati Lukwebo: The defector

On 2 March, supported by the Union Sacrée, Modeste Bahati Lukwebo was elected president of the Senate, replacing the Kabila-supporting Alexis Thambwe Mwamba. However, for many years the senator from South Kivu was one of the influential members of former president Joseph Kabila’s camp.

Several times a minister in charge of the planning and economic portfolios, his name was on President Félix Tshisekedi’s shortlist for the post of prime minister, which was awarded to Sama Lukonde Kyenge on 15 February.

As president of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques du Congo (AFDC), Bahati Lukwebo was open about his wish to lead an institution in the new administration, justifying this ambition by the weight of his party.

Until now, the AFDC was the second political force of Kabila’s Front Commun pour le Congo platform, with 145 elected members. Bahati Lukwebo finally quit Kabila’s camp in 2019 after regular disagreements with Kabila and his allies. He then moved closer to Tshisekedi’s Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social and actively participated in the break-up of the alliance between Tshisekedi and Kabila.

He was one of the architects of the Union Sacrée, and on 31 December 2020, the head of state chose him to seek out allies and form a new parliamentary majority.

Christophe Mboso: The veteran

His age, 78, the same as that of the US President, has earned him the nickname ‘Biden’. Elected the national assembly’s president on 3 February, Christophe Mboso N’kodia Pwanga has become a key Tshisekedi and Union Sacreé ally.

As the longest-serving member of the assembly, he had already been heading the provisional bureau of the lower house since December 2020, following the dismissal of Jeanine Mabunda.

The co-founder of the Parti Démocrate et Social Chrétien in 1990, Mboso is a member and executive secretary of the Alliance des Bâtisseurs pour un Congo Emergent. His management of the plenary sessions that brought down Mabunda and the Ilunkamba government established him as a key figure.

His role – the country’s second most important in terms of protocol – is to get Tshisekedi’s electoral, security, economic and social reforms through the assembly. That will be essential for the head of state if he wants to run for a second term.

Gaston-Thethe Kabwa Kabwe: The adviser

In November 2020, when Tshisekedi was about to officialise his parting with Joseph Kabila, he chose Gaston-Thethe Kabwa Kabwe, a lawyer, to be part of a diplomatic mission to Rwanda to discuss security.

Officially, Kabwa Kabwe is deputy chief of staff to François Beya, special adviser on security matters to the head of state, but for some time he has made a place for himself in Tshisekedi’s inner circle of advisers. He participates in the President’s strategy sessions and ensures his policies are executed.

A professor at the Université de Kinshasa and a lawyer at the bar of Kinshasa-La Gombe, Kabwa Kabwe holds a master’s in comparative law and a doctorate in private law from the Université de Paris-I (Panthéon-Sorbonne).

He was on the monitoring committee of the FCC-Cach agreement, which governed the two-year coalition linking Tshisekedi and Kabila, before playing his part in the creation of Tshisekedi’s new coalition, the Union Sacrée.

“His availability, his commitment, his calm temperament and his humility are the elements that work in his favour,” says a source in Tshisekedi’s entourage.

Samy Badibanga: The loyalist

Originally close to Etienne Tshisekedi, before his decision to defy a boycott and take his seat in parliament in 2011 caused a rift, Samy Badibanga Ntita served as prime minister, chosen from the opposition in Joseph Kabila’s government from November 2016 to April 2017.

Fast-track to 2021, and Badibanga, as first vice-president of the Senate, was able to use his connections to rally parliamentarians to the cause of Félix Tshisekedi’s Union Sacrée coalition and overturn the power-sharing arrangement with Kabila.

Appointed by Tshisekedi junior to work with Bahati Lukwebo on building a parliamentary majority for the new coalition, Badibanga was instrumental in turning the Senate over to their side through persuasion and petitions. On 5 March, with Tshisekedi’s agreement, Badibanga resigned from his position as first vice-president of the Senate. He remains a close adviser to the President.

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s print magazine.

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