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The Unexpected Transfer Of Power In Congo

Felix Tshisekedi, the only one of six sons to enter politics, doesn't have his father's fire, some observers have said.

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Congo
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) who was announced as the winner of the presidential elections gestures to his supporters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 10 VOA

Felix Tshisekedi has emerged from his father’s shadow to become Congo’s next president. For decades that post eluded his father, the venerated opposition politician, Etienne, whose death in 2017 helped catapult his son into the limelight.

The passage of power from father to son is a familiar story in Congo, where President Joseph Kabila took office at age 29 after the assassination of his father, Laurent, in 2001. He stayed on two years beyond his mandate amid delayed elections that finally took place on Dec. 30.

Now Tshisekedi, 55, is taking over after a disputed vote, with his inauguration on Thursday marking troubled Congo’s first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 from Belgium.

Many Congolese say his surprise victory is one the largely untested opposition leader did not earn.

Congo, President, Election
Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition politician declared winner of the presidential poll, sing and dance ahead of the Constitutional Court final decision on the presidential results, in Kinshasa, Jan. 19, 2019. VOA

Runner-Up Revolts

Runner-up Martin Fayulu on Sunday lost a court challenge to election results despite presenting leaked data from Congo’s electoral commission showing he easily won. Fayulu has declared himself the only legitimate president, but Congolese largely have not heeded his call for peaceful protests.

Fayulu and his supporters have accused Kabila of making a backroom deal with Tshisekedi when the ruling party’s candidate did poorly in the vote. Fayulu, an opposition lawmaker and businessman who is outspoken about cleaning up Congo’s sprawling corruption, has been seen by some as a bigger threat to Kabila and his allies.

Tshisekedi “was somebody who would compromise and somebody they felt they could work with because he wasn’t saying he would launch an investigation into Kabila,” said Andrew Edward Tchie, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Congo, Election
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, was announced as the winner of the presidential elections. He gestures to his supporters at the party headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

His presidency will essentially be “a continuation of the regime,” Tchie said. Even if Fayulu had been declared the winner “it would have been the same thing,” given that Kabila’s ruling coalition won a majority of the National Assembly.

Tshisekedi, who was largely quiet after the election, has not addressed the allegation of a secret deal. He told supporters after the court’s declaration of his victory that “the Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security.”

Nobody thought the electoral process would be peaceful, Tshisekedi has said, and no one thought an opposition candidate would win.

After division among African leaders over the disputed vote, some have congratulated Tshisekedi and urged Congolese to move on in the interest of stability after decades of rebel-led turmoil that have left millions dead.

Until his surprise victory, Tshisekedi’s most notable political act had been briefly supporting Fayulu as the candidate of an opposition coalition last year but then breaking away within a day to pursue the presidency himself.

Congo
Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, who was announced as the winner of the presidential elections, celebrate in the streets of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Tshisekedi, the father of five, quietly built his career in the shadow of his father, taking over Congo’s most prominent opposition party only a year after his death.

He had been named the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party’s national secretary in 2008, and was elected a national deputy in 2011 to the city of Mbujimayi in Kasai Oriental province. He later won a National Assembly seat and in 2016 became the party’s vice secretary.

The party’s supporters are nicknamed “the fighters” for their outspoken following. When they speak of Tshisekedi or the UDPS, there is usually mention of his charismatic father.

“Etienne left us the agreement [for Kabila to leave], now Felix is going to be president,” said one supporter, Jean-Baptiste Lay.

Etienne Tshisekedi’s death came at a fragile moment for Congo. He was deeply involved in efforts to persuade Kabila to agree to step down amid sometimes deadly protests over the election delay.

The 84-year-old had formed the country’s first opposition party in 1982 against the longtime dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko and briefly served several times as prime minister.

Congo, President, Election
Congo opposition candidate Martin Fayulu greets supporters as he arrives at a rally in Kinshasha, Congo, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Tshisekedi went into exile in 2000 after clashes with Kabila’s father, who took power after Mobutu’s ouster. He made a triumphant return in 2003 as Joseph Kabila was early in his rule. He lost to Kabila in the 2011 presidential election amid allegations of vote-rigging and declared himself president in protest.

When he died in Belgium, Kabila’s government was so wary of the impact on people the return of his body to Congo could cause that until now they have blocked it from coming home.

Also Read: Calm Settles Over Congo After Election Result

Felix Tshisekedi, the only one of six sons to enter politics, doesn’t have his father’s fire, some observers have said. Questions remain about his abilities and qualifications. Some Belgian media have questioned the veracity of his diploma, but Congolese law says a candidate can either submit a diploma or serve a certain amount of time as a politician to qualify to run for president.

As Congo’s incoming leader inherits the troubled country, he will look to his father’s legacy. One of his first things Tshisekedi will do once sworn in, a spokesman said, is finally allow his father’s body to come home for burial. (VOA)

Next Story

Nigerian Women’s Struggle To Become The Country’s First Female President

The move shocked supporters, like Raymond Chinedu, who saw her as a symbol of new hope for gender equality.

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Africa
Former Nigerian minister and Chibok girls activist Obiageli Ezekwesili speaks during an interview with Reuters in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 8, 2018. Ezekwesili dropped her presidential bid to support a coalition against the main parties. VOA

When Nigerians go to the polls Feb. 16 for general elections, few will be expecting large numbers of female candidates to win.

The share of women in Nigeria’s government in the last three years has fallen to 6 percent, and the top female presidential candidate, Oby Ezekwesili, has withdrawn from the race.

Ezekwesili, a Nigerian technocrat, was aiming to change Nigeria’s political landscape by running to become the country’s first female president.

But she pulled out of the race three weeks before the Feb. 16 vote to support a coalition against the main parties.

Supporters dismayed

The move shocked supporters, like Raymond Chinedu, who saw her as a symbol of new hope for gender equality.

“In Nigeria it is difficult to support a woman to that level, so that’s where the disappointment comes in. But we believe if the men have failed all this while, it is our mindset that at least having a woman in the system, running the system, we believe that things would have taken a different shape,” Chinedu said.

Ezekwesili co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in 2014 and openly marched against the government after Boko Haram terrorists abducted hundreds of schoolgirls
Ezekwesili co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in 2014 and openly marched against the government after Boko Haram terrorists abducted hundreds of schoolgirls .VOA

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission says women occupy only 6 percent of political offices, and he blames cultural and religious factors for the shortage of women in politics.

“… Rwanda even has a higher percentage,” said Oluwole Osaze, the commission’s director. “Part of it is probably because of affirmative action because, in their laws, in their constitution they have things like that. We don’t have that.”

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0c7fS9ND10

Name on the ballot

Ezekwesili co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in 2014 and openly marched against the government after Boko Haram terrorists abducted hundreds of schoolgirls.

The former education minister is also a co-creator of the anti-corruption agency, Transparency International. It’s a notable record in a country known for widespread corruption.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

“Politics undermines everything that we do in this country, whether it is what citizens do, what businesses do, what the society at large does. it undermines governance,” Ezekwesili said.

Nigeria’s election commission said it was too late for Ezekwesili to withdraw from the presidential race and is likely to publish her name on the ballot.

This could split some of the opposition vote, and it’s unlikely Ezekwesili will even remain the top female candidate for president. (VOA)