Vital Kamerhe arrived in Goma on 12 September with a smile on his face. At around 4 pm local time, the national airline’s plane landed at the airport of the capital of the province of North Kivu, where a crowd was waiting for him.
He was accompanied by his closest allies, including Billy Kambale, the secretary-general of his party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), Michel Moto, his assistant and communications adviser, Jean-Baudoin Mayo Mambeke, and the deputy justice minister, Amato Bayubasire. His wife, Hamida Chatur, his mother, his sister Chantal and his son Didier was also at his side.
— Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala (@StanysBujakera) September 12, 2022
Translation: #DRC. @VitalKamerhe1 and the crowd in #Goma
As safe as it is political
Kamerhe was acquitted in June after being sentenced two years earlier to 20 years in prison – a sentence reduced on appeal to 13 years – and barred for 10 years from running for office for corruption and embezzling funds allocated to the 100-day presidential programme. The native of Bukavu, South Kivu, now wants to turn the page on this judicial saga that has kept him in prison and the courts for two years.
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Through this so-called “peace tour”, which, in its first stage, will take Felix Tshisekedi’s former cabinet director to the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema, Kamerhe intends to contribute to efforts to restore the state’s authority in this part of the country where armed groups are the law. The M23’s resurgence last November has only increased tensions. He also plans to visit Rutshuru, a territory in North Kivu province where the town of Bunagana has been occupied for three months by fighters from this rebel movement.
“For the return of peace to our country, I just want to show that in the old days we had greater difficulties than those we have now and that we overcame them (…) We said we wanted the territory of Congo’s sovereignty to be respected,” Kamerhe told supporters.
“I am not here to play politics, I will not say one word about politics. I can’t do politics when the tears and blood of our compatriots are flowing,” he continued.
The position of prime minister?
This tour in the east – the first since Kamerhe’s release – seems to be political. Since his acquittal, considered by many observers as a gesture of reconciliation by Tshisekedi, the president’s former director of the cabinet has been discussing his future role with the head of state.
According to some sources, the position of prime minister could be an option. “The president wants to keep [Jean-Michel] Sama Lukonde Kyenge as head of government, but he is not ruling out the possibility of giving the post to Vital Kamerhe. All options are on the table,” says a person close to the head of state. If Kamerhe succeeds in attracting crowds wherever he goes, Tshisekedi will not be able to do without him. This is a strategic message, one that comes as the president prepares to seek re-election in December 2023.
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