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DRC: Tshisekedi pushes out Mabunda from parliament job

By Romain Gras, Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Friday, 11 December 2020 16:46

Jeannine Mabunda, in her office at the Palais du Peuple, headquarters of the Assembly, in Kinshasa, DRC, on May 11, 2019.
Jeannine Mabunda, in her office at the Palais du Peuple, headquarters of the Assembly, in Kinshasa, DRC, on May 11, 2019. © Caroline Thirion

Jeanine Mabunda is no longer the president of the Congolese National Assembly. A majority of deputies voted to remove her from office. This is a first victory for Félix Tshisekedi, who announced last Sunday 6 he was ending the alliance that bound him to his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

It is a turning point in the five-year term of Felix Tshisekedi. In the National Assembly, where Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) has in principle a large majority, the deputies voted on Thursday to dismiss the president of the national assembly Jeanine Mabunda, a faithful of Joseph Kabila.

She is therefore no longer the president of the National Assembly.

The session took place in an electric atmosphere, and 281 of the 484 deputies present (out of 500) voted “for” the dismissal.

READ MORE Félix Tshisekedi terminates coalition with Joseph Kabila

This result constitutes a major victory for Felix Tshisekedi; it is the first time that he has been able to muster a majority for a vote since he took office on a matter of substance.

The elected representatives were called upon to vote on several petitions calling for the dismissal of the members of the bureau; petitions that had been filed on Saturday, December 5 and signed by representatives of different political parties

During the debates, Deputy Christophe Mboso, president of the bureau responsible for leading the lower house when the bureau of the Assembly President is called into question, had the greatest of difficulties maintaining calm in the hemicycle.

Interrupting on numerous occasions to call for silence, he also had to contain the demands of the elected representatives of the Kabila camp, who demanded, among other things, a roll call to verify that a quorum was indeed present.

A test vote

This vote was a test for the Congolese head of state. On December 6, he had announced the appointment of official (known as an ‘informant’) to help find a new parliamentary majority, effectively ending the coalition he had formed with Joseph Kabila’s FCC since coming to power.

During the two days that followed, tensions turned into a confrontation between the supporters of Tshisekedi and those of his predecessor, both outside and inside the People’s Palace. The clashes resulted in several injuries.

On Thursday, the security apparatus had therefore been greatly reinforced, with a massive police presence on the outskirts of the Parliament and restricted access to parliament.

On Tuesday, several tenors of the Kabila camp gathered at the residence of Jeanine Mabunda to decide on the strategy to adopt during the vote, which they did not hesitate to call an “institutional coup d’état”.

READ MORE DRC: Are Tshisekedi and Kabila ready to divorce?

After having criticized the “illegal” move, the heavyweights of the FCC finally came en masse on Thursday, ready to play the game of the balance of power and determined to prove that they were indeed a “majority”, as former minister Lambert Mende pointed out before the session. Among Kabila’s followers present were Nehemiah Mwilanya Wilondja, the FCC coordinator, and Jaynet Kabila, the twin sister of the former president, who chairs the Assembly’s defense and security committee.

Major asset

It was not sufficient. The fall of Jeanine Mabunda is a setback for the FCC, since the president of the lower house, the second most important state figure in the protocol order, played a key role in Kabila’s plan.

From the arm wrestling around the swearing-in of Constitutional Court judges to the choice of the president of the next Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) to the judicial reform sought by the FCC, relations between Mabunda and Felix Tshisekedi have deteriorated considerably during 2020.

The petition approved on Thursday criticized Mabunda in particular for “opaque management” of the Assembly’s coffers. The signatories also accused the President of the National Assembly of having “distinguished herself by cavalier, conflict-generating and partisan initiatives”, citing in particular her call for a boycott of the swearing-in of the judges of the Constitutional Court, whose appointment was contested by the Kabila camp.

Invited to speak, like each member of the board involved, the interested party denounced “inaccuracies” in the accusations made against her, pointing out several contradictions, and concluded her speech by apologizing to the deputies, to whom she asked to reject these petitions.

Sacred Union

It is an important page that is being turned in the National Assembly and a crucial stage in the offensive led by Felix Tshisekedi to regain the advantage over the Kabila camp.

Does this vote prefigure the new majority that the Congolese president hopes to obtain? In recent weeks, the Tshisekedi camp has, in any case, multiplied its efforts to form new political alliances, managing to rally to its cause several members of parliament who are members of the FCC.

Will these new balances within the Assembly be confirmed by the ‘informer’ that Tshisekedi is due to appoint very soon? Once appointed, the latter will have thirty days – renewable once – to identify a new majority, and this can only be achieved with the rallying of many FCC deputies.

Several of them took part this week in two meetings led by Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund, the acting president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), who was also removed from his position as first vice-president of the Assembly last May.

READ MORE DRC: Tshisekedi rounds up new allies for 2023 presidential polls

If he obtains a new majority, Felix Tshisekedi will be able to form a new government and thus attack another disturbing figure in the Kabila camp: the Prime Minister, Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba. If this fails, Tshisekedi has promised to dissolve the National Assembly.

A costly and perilous initiative in the absence of electoral reforms and a truly functional electoral commission.

 

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