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13 November. It’s raining hard in Kinshasa. It’s even flooding, but on this day, nothing can discourage the supporters of the ‘patriotic bloc’. Thousands of activists from Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for the Congo (FCC) and those of Lamuka, led by Martin Fayulu and Adolphe Muzito, march to the Tata-Raphael stadium. Yesterday they were opponents. Today they share a common struggle.
March for change
They are all protesting against the appointment of Denis Kadima as head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) and they accuse the government of seeking to lock up the electoral process in preparation for the 2023 presidential election.
Three weeks earlier, after months of stalemate, President Felix Tshisekedi endorsed the much-disputed choice of Denis Kadima. Although his competence is recognised by all, detractors of this electoral expert accuse him of being too close to the president – the two come from Kasai province.
The law entrusts eight religious denominations with the task of proposing the name of the president of the Ceni, but the powerful Catholic Church (the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, Cenco) and the Protestant Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) opposed the other six, denouncing claims of corruption and threats.
“This is the march for change. We started today and we will continue until the incompetents understand that the people want to take charge,” said Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, one of Kabila’s closest lieutenants within the FCC, at the beginning of the procession on 13 November, before denouncing what he termed as a “dictatorship” worse than “that of Mobutu”.
The sentiments are similar to those that Fayulu, his former rival, made during the 2018 presidential race: same opponent, Félix Tshisekedi, same slogan.
Can former enemies become allies – at least under these circumstances? The break-up of the alliance between the FCC and Cap pour le changement (Cach, Tshisekedi’s coalition) in the aftermath of the 2018 presidential election seems to be good news for the opposition, which sees its ranks strengthened by Kabila and his followers.
However, the devil is in the details. On 13 November, the opposition marched – in three separate processions – to the stadium. However, neither Kabila nor Fayulu were on the streets of Kinshasa with their supporters. The former was still in South Africa, where he had gone to defend his thesis before visiting several of his relatives who live there, while the latter preferred not to take part in the march.
It is obvious that if Fayulu did not come, it is because he did not want to show himself arm in arm with the caciques of the FCC.
“Why should Martin Fayulu always embody the protest?” asks one of his supporters, who adds that he (Fayulu) always turns up, but on that day, there were already many leaders present. He insists that Fayulu supported the initiative, but didn’t need to be present.
Some officials in the ranks of government however ridiculed Fayulu’s absence. “It is obvious that if Fayulu did not come, it is because he did not want to show himself arm in arm with the old guard of the FCC!” one of them says.
Surprises in prospect
The unease is palpable within the entourage of the one who still insists he was ‘elected president’ in the 2018 poll. “We have no relationship with the FCC. For us, Kabila and Tshisekedi are still together. The system that was in place under Kabila is the one that continues. Nothing has changed,” says one of his supporters.
According to Fayulu, the Sacred Union is the “second pregnancy” of the alliance between Tshisekedi and Kabila. For the one who believes he was robbed of victory by shenanigans between the current and the former president, envisaging a real alliance with Kabila seems out of the question.
In the ranks of the FCC, still weakened by its loss of power a year ago, the tone is more conciliatory. The party still has temporary structures and is run by a ‘crisis committee’, yet everyone seems to be waiting for the directives of a leader known for discretion and reservation.
Even as the political scene continues to recompose, there’s a word of caution. Between now and 2023, “the political game holds many surprises”, says an observer who recalls that before they opposed each other, Kabila and Tshisekedi were unified by the government.
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