The wait is over. On Sunday 6 December, Félix Tshisekedi delivered a much-anticipated speech in which he unveiled the conclusions of an intense round of political meetings.
The aim: end the crisis caused by nearly two years of tension with his coalition partner, the Common Front for Congo (FCC) of former president Joseph Kabila.
‘Rejection of the coalition’
After listing the points of convergence that emerged during these three weeks of consultations (2 – 25 November) – from the fight against impunity, insecurity and corruption, to the need for electoral reforms or the prospect of a national census – Tshisekedi noted the failure of the ruling coalition.
“These consultations also highlighted the rejection of the coalition,” he said. “The FCC-Cach coalition government (Cap for Change, Tshisekedi’s coalition) has not allowed the implementation of the programme that brought me to the Presidency”
To remedy these blockages, Tshisekedi, who explained that he did not wish to “resolve the status quo”, announced the appointment of an “informateur”; an official charged with identifying a new majority that will be in tune with the Congolese president. This option, enshrined in the constitution, was not used at the start of his term in January 2019.
Katumbi and Bemba evoked
Several names from the entourage of Tshisekedi have been floated to occupy this position, including opponents Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba. Both options were deemed “very credible” by a close advisor to the head of state, who spoke to us. Two other personalities are also noted: Senator FCC Modeste Bahati Lukwebo and the first vice-president of the Senate Samy Badibanga.
By opting for the appointment of an ‘informateur’, Tshisekedi is thus betting on the constitution of a new majority that can only be built up with the rallying of political forces from all sides, in order to add to the small contingent of about 50 deputies – out of the 500 deputies in the National Assembly – that he currently has through his Cach coalition.
Two of the four leaders of the Lamuka opposition coalition, Katumbi and Bemba, agreed to participate in the consultations, leaving the door open for a possible rallying to the presidential camp. Between them, these two heavyweights of Congolese politics bring together nearly a hundred deputies.
A majority that cannot be found?
Tshisekedi is also counting on the rallying of Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, senator FCC and leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces of Congo and Allies (AFDC-A), the second political force of Kabila’s coalition. Rejected by part of the FCC since his candidacy for the presidency of the Senate by Alexis Thambwe Mwamba in July 2019, Bahati was confirmed as the sole leader of his party by the High Court of La Gombe on November 23.
But even with the aggregation of these different forces, the ‘informateur’ that Tshisekedi will appoint will have to find support elsewhere and, presumably, will have to rely on poaching many FCC members. “The coalition no longer exists, today we have entered the Sacred Union,” said an optimistic close adviser to the head of state on the eve of the speech.
According to Article 78 of the Congolese Constitution, “the mission of information is thirty days, renewable only once.”
If the ‘informateur’ fails, could Tshisekedi dissolve the National Assembly? The Congolese president has left the door open to this option, considered until now as “the solution of last resort” by the entourage of the head of state.
The President assured the Congolese people that “the reasons for dissolution were met given there has been a persistent crisis, crystallised in particular by the parliament’s refusal to support certain government initiatives, as was the case during the swearing in of the members of the Constitutional Court, I will use the constitutional prerogatives granted to me, to come back to you, sovereign people, and ask you for this majority,” said Tshisekedi.
If dissolution were to take place, the National Independent Electoral Commission, whose new bureau has not yet been elected, would be responsible for convening voters within sixty days of the date of publication of the dissolution order.
In any case, the arm wrestling has already begun in the National Assembly. Several deputies from Cach, Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), and political parties affiliated with Katumbi, along with some FCC deputies, filed six petitions on Saturday 5 December, calling for the disqualification of members of the lower house bureau, chaired by Jeanine Mabunda (FCC). At the same time, 312 deputies from the FCC signed a motion of support for the office of the National Assembly.
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