DRC: ‘It’s easy to accuse Kabila, but has Tshisekedi done any better?’ – FCC head

By Anna Sylvestre-Treiner
Posted on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 16:12

Raymond Tshibanda, DRC's former foreign affairs minister under President Joseph Kabila. © Camille Millerand for JA

One year after being appointed as head of the pro-Kabila platform, Raymond Tshibanda agreed to talk to us about the crisis brewing within the FCC, the Ceni's composition and the platform's presidential candidate.

He speaks to Joseph Kabila nearly every day. 16 months ago, Raymond Tshibanda was entrusted with the difficult task of rebuilding the former president’s party, a formation that was destroyed and dismembered when the pact linking it to Félix Tshisekedi was ruptured and after many of its leaders left to join the rival camp.

Why was he chosen to lead the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) in these tumultuous times? He argues that it is undoubtedly his loyalty, discretion and age (now 71), which he believes to be synonymous with wisdom, that has earned him the leader’s trust.

Often in the background, Tshibanda is choosing his words carefully and speaking out. Where does the opposition platform stand? What alliances is it ready to forge? Which candidate will it choose for 2023? A little over a year and a half before the next presidential election, the former foreign affairs minister agreed to answer our questions.

When you were appointed to head the FCC crisis committee in December 2020, it was only supposed to be an interim situation. It has now been over a year… Why so long? 

It’s true, we were appointed to manage the crisis that arose after our majority in Parliament was overturned. But this crisis turned out to be deeper than we had suspected, so we needed more time. We didn’t want to tinker, we wanted to truly re-found the FCC.

Were you surprised to see your majority overturned? 

Yes, to be honest. We did not expect that the Constitution would be violated to such an extent by the person who is supposed to defend it, namely the head of state. Corruption, threats…We never could have imagined that a majority that had been granted to a political camp by the people would be diverted using such unsavoury practices.

This was possible because many of your elected representatives joined your rivals… 

The extent of the political class’ greed is an open secret. But beyond the money, how many could resist political pressure, threats from the security services, and the ultimatum that the National Assembly would be dissolved? When a head of state imposes his personal will as the supreme law, few people manage to resist.

The question is: “Why was this alliance dissolved?” The president said that Kabila was preventing him from working. It is easy to accuse Kabila of all the evils, but has Tshisekedi done any better in the last year? Frankly not.

Ever since the alliance with Tshisekedi was broken, there is a feeling that the FCC is stunned, that it cannot get up again… 

Just because we’re not making any noise, doesn’t mean that we are stunned. Did you not hear us discuss the RAM tax? The composition of the Ceni [Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante?] I can assure you that we will be there. The FCC is a giant, a sleeping giant that will wake up.

You set up the “patriotic bloc” with the Lamuka coalition, notably to protest against Denis Kadima’s appointment as head of the Ceni. Is this alliance still relevant?

Absolutely, because the ideas that unite us are still relevant. We are convinced that the current process is flawed and that the result will make the Congolese cry. Holding elections with a Constitutional Court and the Ceni at the helm does not allow for transparent elections. We want to stop the current dictatorial drift.

Do you think it will be possible to form an alliance with Martin Fayulu ahead of the 2023 presidential elections?

We are ready to work with all those who share our goals.

Even with Moïse Katumbi? Kabila called him a “Judas”… 

We are not closing any doors.

Will the FCC present a candidate in 2023?

The FCC is one of the biggest political forces in this country. It can’t not present a candidate.

Could that candidate be Kabila?

He is our natural candidate. And nothing prevents Kabila from being one. It is up to him to decide.

Kabila’s party, the Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD), which is one of the components of the FCC, has just announced that it will hold a congress soon. Do you also intend to hold one? 

Certainly, before the 2023 elections. A timetable has been agreed upon. I can’t reveal the date yet, but it will be soon.

Would you like to stay on as head of the FCC? 

What a question! I did not ask to lead the FCC, I accepted the challenge when I was asked, but for me, leading the FCC is not a life project.

What role does the former president play within the platform? He is said to be very much withdrawn from political life…

Many things are being said, especially by those who pray night and day for Kabila to withdraw from politics. Many are afraid of Kabila’s record. As far as the FCC is concerned, Kabila is present but in his own way, he has never been an invasive leader. However, the Congo is in his bones.

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