The death of Amadou Gon Coulibaly on 8 July has left the Ivorian political party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix – RHDP) without a candidate for the presidential election. Who can fill in his shoes?
DRC: The pro-Kabila faction paves the way for his return
The Kabila-controlled party, the Common Front for Congo (FCC), launched a debate at the end of October on the eligibility of Joseph Kabila and on possible constitutional reform.
It had one objective, namely “to prepare the opinion” and gauge how the public perceives the possible return of the former Congolese president.
The strategy deployed by the leaders of the coalition, which has chosen former President Joseph Kabila as its “moral authority”, is stirring up the Congolese political scene.
On 22 October, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the failed presidential candidate of December 2018, announced the former president’s return to the presidential arena as the leader of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).
With still four years to go before the next election, Shadary said his party’s goal was to ensure Kabila “an irrevocable victory in the next presidential election”.
A week later, it was the turn of Nehemiah Mwilanya, the coordinator of the Common Front for Congo, to push the spin even further.
- “What is certain is that no constitutional, institutional or even political obstacle would prevent the return of former President Kabila and above all could prevent him from running for President,” he said in a short text relayed by the FCC on its social networks.
Towards a constitutional review?
This attempt to occupy the Congolese political space has achieved its objective: to occupy the media field, to set the pace of the debate, and to place Joseph Kabila back in the centre of the discussion.
- “It is a question of preparing public opinion for a future constitutional revision, which would touch on sensitive issues, for FCC executives and, in particular, for Joseph Kabila’s family square,” says one of the prominent members of the PPRD, speaking under cover of anonymity to Jeune Afrique.
Another source within the pro-Kabila coalition was even more explicit about the strategy deployed:
- “It is a test balloon, a survey, to see how receptive the population is to Joseph Kabila,” says our source, who pointed out that these statements are also intended to “guide the next constitutional review”.
Among the questions raised by the FCC’s political staff were, “Should we move towards a two-round presidential election? Stay on a direct vote or move to an indirect vote?”
In other words, says one staffer, “it is a question of knowing in which election Kabila will run”.
With a majority in Parliament, the FCC has free rein to carry out a possible constitutional revision. And it has promised to “shake up the current institutional order”, if it meets the current wishes of the FCC’s leaders.
- On Monday, Professor Nyabirungu Mwene Songa held a press conference on the subject and affirmed that nothing in law prevented the former President of the Republic from running for a new term.
- The day before, the professor and his team had been received by the permanent secretary of the PPRD, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Joseph Kabila’s communication teams did not fail to relay the opinions of the eminent professor as widely as possible.
Tshisekedi supporters “vigilant”
This may explain the deep-seated anger of Jean Marc Kabund, interim president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). On Sunday, he announced the end of “all discussions” between the FCC and the Coalition for Change, which supported Félix Tshisekedi’s run for president, and now shares power with a majority FCC in all parliamentary bodies.
It is possible that he was also enflamed by a poster of Félix Tshisekedi that was burned in Kolwezi.
Kabund, who is also Vice-President of the National Assembly, did not mince his words with the pro-Kabila political “allies”.
- “Be careful. We must remain vigilant and cautious, they [the FCC] want to distract us while they are preparing things against Fatshi [Félix Tshisekedi],” he stated.