DRC: Clan war within President Félix Tshisekedi’s party

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Tuesday, 29 November 2022 09:41

DRC's President Felix Tshisekedi is in the grip of violent internal divisions. © Tchandrou Nitanga/AFP

Even though DRC's President Félix Tshisekedi is preoccupied with his duties as head of state, a battle is raging for leadership of his party. The arrest of key UPDS member Victor Wakwenda following his attacks on secretary-general Augustin Kabuya once again highlights the rivalries within the party. One year to the presidential elections, can the UPDS get its house in order?

Since Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund suddenly went from being interim president of the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) to a prisoner in Makala, the presidential party’s most powerful leaders know that the fall can be painful.

This time, Victor Wakwenda, until then president of the Convention Démocratique du Parti (CDP), a kind of party parliament, learned this lesson the hard way.

On 21 November, the septuagenarian was arrested and detained for 24 hours in Kinshasa’s central prison. He is accused of “spreading false rumours” after declaring that “the country [was] badly managed”, according to information provided by his lawyer.

The UDPS disciplinary commission also stripped him of his functions and expelled him from the party.

Attack and retaliation

These sanctions were introduced after several days of arm wrestling with Augustin Kabuya, head of the general secretariat of Félix Tshisekedi’s party, one of the three bodies that run the UDPS along with the CDP and the electoral commission. It all began on 12 November when the four UDPS federations in the city of Kinshasa met around the CDP.

Wakwenda then took the floor to criticise Kabuya’s management. “The dysfunctions are such that even the letters [sent by] the party’s internal structures are not followed up,” he said, announcing Kabuya’s removal from the post of secretary-general.

A few days later, demonstrations against Wakwenda were held outside the UDPS headquarters in Limete.

I don’t know if it’s a problem of age or mental health. The gentleman [Victor Wakwenda] has opened a breach that even he will not be able to close

Projectiles, burnt tyres and Molotov cocktails were thrown as militants demanded Kabuya’s departure.

The response was swift. “I don’t know if it’s a problem of age or mental health. The gentleman [Victor Wakwenda] has opened a breach that even he will not be able to close,” said Kabuya.

Even though Tshisekedi, the president of the UDPS, is preoccupied with his duties as head of state, a battle for leadership is in fact being fought within the party.

Tense relations

This is indeed a new crisis for this party, which is torn by internal rivalries and divergent ambitions.

After years of opposition, the UDPS seems to have failed to become a real party of government, four years after its accession to power.

Moreover, the UDPS often has tense relations with its political partners.

From Joseph Kabila’s party, at the time of their alliance, to Moïse Katumbi’s party, which is no longer a real ally, through Vital Kamerhe and Jean-Pierre Bemba’s formations, “the UDPS wants everyone to line up behind it, the opposite exposes you to insults and slander”, says a political partner leader.

This is a worrying state of affairs as Tshisekedi is a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for December 2023 and is counting on his political machine for the campaign period.

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