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DRC: Vital Kamerhe insists Tshisekedi-Kabila alliance not in jeopardy — yet

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, in Johannesburg
Posted on Monday, 18 November 2019 17:23

Vital Kamerhe, Félix Tshisekedi's Chief of Staff © ROBERT CARRUBBA for JA

As the coalition formed by supporters of Felix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila rips apart, Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff to the head of state and leader of a main contingent of the Coalition for Change, called for calm, at the same time inviting the former president to do the same in his camp.

Vital Kamerhe was in Johannesburg, South Africa, when the outbreak of hostilities between the coalitions of Felix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila erupted. The Congolese President’s Chief of Staff was attending the second Forum on Investment in Africa organized by the African Development Bank.

Kamerhe commented on the Forum, saying he was “satisfied with the progress made in discussions with partners on several important projects”, notably, “the Inga III project [a mega-infrastructure dam on the Congo River], but also in mining and agriculture”.

En route to Kinshasa Thursday morning, however, his attention turned to matters more domestic. As the leader of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), one of the member parties of the Coalition for Change (Cach, by Félix Tshisekedi), he stepped up his call for calm.

The alliance between the Coalition for Change and the Common Front for Congo is subject to ongoing tensions. Isn’t there a risk of the agreement being broken?

Vital Kamerhe: We must, on both sides, look to the moral authorities of coalitions. Félix Tshisekedi, for Cach, and Joseph Kabila, for the FCC. And both of them, it seems to me, still care about this coalition.

I myself am the third party to this agreement, because before the FCC-CACH alliance, there is the Nairobi agreement between Felix Tshisekedi and myself. And personally, I care about the FCC-Cach coalition.

Leaders of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, President Felix Tshisekedi’s party, have raised the threat of possible prosecution against supporters of the former executive, led by Joseph Kabila. The FCC responded with strong warnings. The rupture seems final, is that right?

The point of view that must be taken when we talk about the alliance between FCC and Cach is that it concerns first and foremost the two chiefs of staff, the two moral authorities, namely Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila.

On our side, we say that as long as Joseph Kabila does not throw shade on President Felix Tshisekedi, that he does not block his way, the coalition is doing very well. And if you listen to the President, in all his interventions, he never mentions that.

Similarly, Joseph Kabila did not express anger or disagreement. The two coalition leaders must express their views on the subject. President Tshisekedi has already done so. I invite President Kabila to do the same. The FCC-CACH coalition has a future, and we will do everything we can to maintain it through ongoing dialogue.

Do you think that Jean Marc Kabund, interim president of the UDPS and first vice-president of the National Assembly, went too far in his comments about the FCC-CACH Alliance?

We are in a democracy and people can express themselves. Today, there is a controversy over Jean Marc Kabund’s comments – which I do not want to comment on – but why people do not talk about the comments made by the FCC during their forum in Katanga which, in my opinion, were the detonating factor? Why, in Katanga, were there such provocations?

I think Joseph Kabila didn’t ask the FCC people to proclaim him almost president for life! To say that he must come back and run in the presidential election, when we are not yet a year away from the exercise of President Tshisekedi’s power.

We heard serious comments, which were likely to provoke aftershocks that were perhaps disproportionate. I condemn both of them and invite them to calm down, because we have come a long way.

Is it Joseph Kabila’s announced return to the political scene that is causing such a stir?

You know, when you hold important positions in the state, it puts a significant force in your hands. To this we must also add our aura, our leadership. These forces should not be used to light the fire, but rather to extinguish it.

At the level of the CACH, is the 2023 presidential election already on the agenda?

I am in the best position to tell you that what worries President Tshisekedi at the moment is to meet the expectations of the Congolese people. President Tshisekedi is not in the perspective of 2023 today. And the same goes for his chief of staff. [Vital Kamerhe, himself].

Meeting the expectations of the Congolese people is our priority. We have launched the 100-day programme, which is a success in terms of what has been done, particularly in road construction.

Why have several of the decisions taken by President Félix Tshisekedi, and in particular the ordinances appointing the leaders of Gécamines and the SNCC, still not been implemented, even though they are several months old?

This issue has been discussed between the FCC and the CACH, and I believe that the two leaders have already agreed on how this will apply. We are learning from the coalition. In our country, we have seen several coalitions that have never worked.

But we also have the example of the “4+1” formula [a formula set up in 2003, in the aftermath of the second Congo war, adding four vice-presidents to President Kabila [Azarias Ruberwa, Arthur Z’ahidi Ngoma, Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, and Jean-Pierre Bemba]. It had worked because people were working together, and everyone was putting water in their wine.

This model should inspire us. Because, even if it was Felix Tshisekedi who won the presidential election, we do not have a majority in the National Assembly. In other words, if we are not smart enough to partner with the FCC, it will be difficult to lead this country.

So, all Félix Tshisekedi’s decisions must first be negotiated?

No. When we talk about negotiation, permanent dialogue, it is African-style democracy. We are brothers, with the same objective: to improve the living conditions of our population. If, within the FCC and Cach, there are some who have other objectives, they have no place in the coalition.

The question of a possible revision of the Constitution comes up again and again. What do you think are the main things to change?

First, dual nationality. The Congolese in the diaspora must be allowed to feel comfortable and the hypocrisy that prevails on this issue must be stopped. We must also consider returning to a two-round presidential election. I also believe that senators and governors must be elected directly by the people.

In addition, there are certain provisions of the Constitution that are not clear. It is absolutely essential to revisit the text, without, of course, touching on the intangible provisions.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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