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DRC: Fayulu refuses to believe Tshisekedi and Kabila have split up

By Romain Gras
Posted on Thursday, 18 March 2021 13:28

Deprived of his allies from the Lamuka coalition, the former DRC 2018 presidential candidate Martin Fayulu is determined to stay in the game. But can he still carry weight against President Félix Tshisekedi and his on-again off-again union with Joseph Kabila?

Fayulu does not hold back. Three months after the end of the coalition that united Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila, the opponent, who has not stopped for two years to claim victory in the December 2018 presidential election, states his position. The head of state and his predecessor may have officially put an end to their alliance, but Fayulu refuses to believe in the rupture.

According to him, the “evil deal” between the two men is still in force. “What is happening today is an optical illusion. The people who are in the ‘Sacred Union’ are the same as those who were in the coalition between the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) and Cach [Cap for Change]. These are stratagems to maintain power,” he tells us during an interview.

In a shifting political landscape, and while all eyes are on the new Prime Minister Sama Lukonde Kyenge, whose government is expected to be announced within the week, the former candidate has chosen to maintain his strategy. Even if it means isolating himself from his rivals even more.

Break-up

For more than three months, the Congolese political scene has been in full reconfiguration. After regaining control of the two chambers of Parliament, Tshisekedi, who also obtained the departure of Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, now has a new majority, with officially 391 deputies. This majority is largely composed of defectors from the FCC.

In the last few weeks, Fayulu has denounced this new alliance on several occasions as a “bought majority” and described the ‘Sacred Union’ as a “second pregnancy” of the Tshisekedi-Kabila duo. “Where is the change? Christophe Mboso [the new president of the National Assembly] and Modeste Bahati Lukwebo [the new president of the Senate] are 100% Kabilists,” he says.

For this opponent, the equation is simple: with the ‘Sacred Union’ and the FCC-Cach coalition essentially being the same, Fayulu is trying to consolidate his position in the opposition, where the cards have also been shuffled.

In addition to the defectors from the Kabila camp, the ‘Sacred Union’ also relies on two heavyweights from the Lamuka coalition: Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba. Their rallying has further weakened the opposition platform that supported Fayulu’s candidacy in 2018.

After the withdrawal of Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi and Freddy Matungulu in 2019, Fayulu, Adolphe Muzito, Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba had continued to share a common ideal. But their numerous differences concerning the best strategy to adopt vis-à-vis Tshisekedi regularly expose their internal divisions, with, on the one hand, the advocates of a moderate line, embodied by Katumbi (and, albeit in a discreet manner, by Bemba), and, on the other, the supporters of a more radical approach, first and foremost Fayulu, supported by Adolphe Muzito.

The former governor of Katanga chose from the beginning to adopt a “republican” position and to recognise the institutions. The ex-candidate, on the other hand, never stopped challenging their legitimacy. This rupture seemed, in the long run, inevitable.

‘Lack of political elegance’

Questioned by us on the rapprochement of his companions of the opposition with Tshisekedi, Fayulu replies cautiously at first. “Everyone is free to make their own choices. It is the nature of human life, alliances are made and unmade.” But then adds he regrets “the lack of political elegance” of his two former allies.

Until last October, before the political crisis that led to the divorce between Tshisekedi and Kabila broke out, the four opponents still seemed to be on a common path. A final joint communiqué issued on 12 October to mark the handover of leadership of Lamuka from Adolphe Muzito to Martin Fayulu even mentioned internal reforms within their coalition.

A few days later, the latter announced the launch of consultations intended to lead to the Sacred Union. The last chance negotiations, carried out on the other side of the river, in Brazzaville, where Katumbi and Fayulu successively met the Congolese president Denis Sassou-Nguesso, did not make it possible to align positions on this issue.

Since then, the four leaders of Lamuka have not held a joint meeting.

Leadership quarrel

Despite their support for the Sacred Union, neither Bemba nor Katumbi has formally left the opposition coalition. And the coalition is now in a very uncomfortable situation, as illustrated by a recent exchange of communiqués.

On 26 February, at the end of a meeting of the Lamuka presidium, Fayulu and Adolphe Muzito said that, as Bemba and Katumbi had “freely adhered to the Sacred Union”, the coordination of the Lamuka platform would henceforth be “assumed in an alternative manner by the two remaining members”.

Two days later, a second communiqué, this time signed by four members of the Lamuka political cell, rejected these conclusions. “The action led by Katumbi and Bemba, with the aim of putting an end to the Kabilist dictatorship, is in line with Lamuka’s objectives,” the document said. According to a person close to Katumbi, a rotation at the head of the coalition is still expected to continue as planned with the former governor of Katanga taking the lead on 10 April.

Are we therefore heading towards a leadership dispute at the top of Lamuka? In the Fayulist ranks, they denounce a desire to “corner” the former candidate. “No one has ever prevented him from formulating proposals. He chooses to evolve as a pariah and refuses to see that things have changed,” says a close friend of President Tshisekedi.

Already looking to 2023?

This imbroglio could holdback Fayulu, and this is at a time when the members of the FCC remained loyal to Kabila also claim to be the opposition. If he refuses to share the label of opposition with them, the former candidate say he intends to continue to occupy the field.

On 12 March, he presented with Adolphe Muzito a proposal for the reform of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) in view of the next elections. Wishing to “depoliticise” this body at the heart of many controversies, they suggested that the office be entrusted exclusively to delegates from civil society and that the presidency should be rotated by members of religious denominations.

A similar proposal had already been made in August 2019 by opposition MP Christophe Lutundula and tabled in the National Assembly, but without success. Fayulu intends to promote his proposal outside the institutions, whose legitimacy he disputes, complicating his chances of being heard.

Despite the overwhelming majority of his opponent and the lack of success so far by the proposal to end the crisis that he formulated in May 2019, Fayulu intends to push this new initiative to the end, and this while the issue of the organisation of the next elections has been invited in the debate in recent days. “We have to ask ourselves: in what environment do we want to organise these elections? What balance sheet will Tshisekedi and Kabila present? It is still time to find a satisfactory solution for everyone,” he says.

“Fayulu wants to be able to say in 2023 that he is the only one who has not changed his mind along the way,” says a member of Lamuka who has joined the ‘Sacred Union’.” The problem with this strategy is that he continues to isolate himself while others move forward.”

This enduring opponent, who assures us that he has not given up on the prospect – unlikely at this stage – of early elections, is he already thinking about his own candidacy? “It won’t be up to me to choose,” he says. “The people will decide.”

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