DRC: Leaders of Kabila’s PPRD tempted by the Tshisekedi camp

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala

Posted on Monday, 17 January 2022 16:43
Joseph Kabila in January 2019 in Kinshasa © TONY KARUMBA/AFP

A seven-second video made the rounds on social media. On 3 January, in the middle of his Grand Kasaï tour, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi landed in Tshikapa. At each of his stops, a host of officials awaited him as he got off the presidential plane. Among them was Évariste Boshab, one of the most important figures in the Joseph Kabila system.

“Thank you for being here,” said an almost surprised Tshisekedi. “But there’s nowhere else I would be,” Boshab replied matter of factly. Within the space of a few hours, the exchange had gone viral.

“The Kabila camp’s soul”

Former president of the national assembly, former secretary-general of the Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD, the former presidential party under former President Kabila) and an especially powerful interior minister between 2014 and 2016, Boshab has long embodied the Kabila system. “He is one of the brains of the former president’s camp, but he is also its soul,” say those who know this 66-year-old university professor.

On 19 September 2016, when the population took to the streets of Kinshasa at the call of opposition figures, including Tshisekedi, and civil society actors to demand the holding of elections, Boshab had organised the crackdown. The UN reported 53 dead, 127 injured and 368 arrested.

But Boshab is not the only one that mobilised for Tshisekedi in Kasai. In Kabinda, located in Lomami Province, another PPRD leader declared his support for Tshisekedi. Just like Lambert Mende (already a member of the Union Sacrée) in Sankuru, Adolphe Lumanu assembled his fief’s troops to give the head of state a warm welcome.

“The President of the republic has a vision for the whole of the national territory: security in the eastern part of the country. He has a vision for developing basic entities, starting with the territories and passing through towns as well as the whole republic. Who wouldn’t support this vision? If you do not support it, it is because you are against the aspirations and expectations of your people,” said Kabila’s former cabinet director, who also worked at the interior ministry.

The presence of PPRD veterans alongside Tshisekedi has caused great controversy within this flagship formation of Kabila’s Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC). So much so that one of them, senator Léonard She Okitundu, former minister of foreign affairs, was keen to explain his presence in Sankuru. “The head of state came as part of the Lumumbaville project, aimed at honouring the memory of our national hero. As a senator, I could not be absent,” he said.

Serial departures

How does one even begin to explain, almost a year after the Union Sacrée was formed, this new wave of departures from Kabila’s camp? The first reason can undoubtedly be found within the PPRD. Ever since its candidate was defeated in the 2018 elections and the majority changed, the party has been going through a crisis from which it seems unable to recover.

Parliament members, senators and ministers have rallied to the Union Sacrée. Théophile Mbemba, the party’s co-founder and former minister of higher education and universities, has even created his own Alliance pour l’Alternance et le Progrès.

For his part, Didi Manara Linga, who was recently suspended for attempting to get closer to the Union Sacrée without the PPRD’s knowledge, was poached by the opposition and appointed the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante‘s first vice-president. This is a new setback for the Kabila camp, which refused to send representatives to the electoral commission because of the lack of consensus surrounding the process.

The PPRD is also facing strong opposition to its permanent secretary, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the main target of criticism that has so far spared Kabila.

Last but not least, his deputy, Ferdinand Kambere, was arrested and sent to Makala prison for the “attempted murder” of one of the young people who initiated the revolt.

2023 in sight?

“Beyond the party’s internal crisis, those who mobilised for Félix Tshisekedi in Kasai are doing so for electoral reasons,” says a source close to Tshisekedi. “This is Tshisekedi’s fiefdom, and 2023 is approaching. It is necessary to be in the President’s good graces.”

However, the leadership of the ruling Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) remains cautious about this rapprochement. “They are coming for Tshisekedi, the president of the republic, and not for the UDPS, the political party,” says our source.

However, the PPRD and FCC’s uncertain futures leave the door open to settling scores. The Kabilist Coco Nyangi accused Shadary of being responsible for the party leaders’ exodus: “He is my brother and my friend, but he failed. Everyone has left,” he said in a video that has made the rounds on the web.

Could the revitalisation of the former presidential party, which has been mooted for many months, and Shadary’s possible ousting help it break the deadlock?

“It is possible that, between his divorce from the head of state and pressure from the US, Joseph Kabila has decided to step back from politics to better preserve his personal interests,” says a European diplomat. “Even if it means setting the PPRD aside and not forming a real opposition force, thus giving Tshisekedi a free hand.”

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