Several questions arise concerning the succession of Etienne Tshisekedi. From the Presidency of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the Presidency of the Council of Sages of the Opposition Rally, the National Monitoring Council for the Agreement to the Leadership of the Congolese Opposition, the Sphinx of Limete leaves a vacuum difficult to fill. KINSHASATIMES.CD focused on the after Tshisekedi wa Mulumba during an interview granted him by the economist Noel Tshiani, ideological heir of the Leader Maximo and candidate for the future presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KINSHASA TIMES: Tshisekedi was a heavyweight political leader who, through his political commitment, has made a significant contribution in laying the foundations for democracy in the DRC. What do you think will be the implications of his disappearance in the Congolese political scene?
Noel tshiani : Etienne Tshisekedi was actually a political heavyweight in the DRC. He has played a remarkable role in democratization efforts and the advent of the rule of law in the country. It goes without saying that his abrupt disappearance can have major implications in the Congolese political landscape. From the outset, his own political party, the UDPS, will be called upon to face the double challenge of its own survival as a social organization and its position as a spearhead of the ongoing nonviolent political struggle For democratic and constitutional alternation at the top of the state. From the survival of the UDPS also depends that of the Rally of the Opposition as an organized body. The political calculations so far largely based on the consideration of Tshisekedi’s weight on the political scene must be reconsidered in the headquarters of the opposing or allied parties and this could have inevitable consequences on the outcome of the talks (Negotiations moderated by the Catholic Church in DRC [editor’s note]) in progress.
The appointment of a replacement for Tshisekedi as head of the National Monitoring Council for the December 31 Agreement, as well as discussions on the appointment of the Prime Minister, will no longer be considered in the same way as during President Tshisekedi’s lifetime. However, the awakening of political consciousness that currently characterizes the majority of Congolese youth is such that it presents an important weight inherited from the struggle of the Elderly and which no one would be able to control completely. In short, the vacuum left by Etienne Tshisekedi will certainly be difficult to fill in the structures with which he was associated and this, with all the consequences for the balance of power with the now ruling power.
KT : He had to play a key role in the process leading to the signing of the comprehensive and inclusive compromise under the aegis of the Catholic Church in December 2016 and he was to be Chairman of the Council for monitoring the implementation of the Agreement. Virtually a role of surveillance and checks. How will his death affect the rest of the process?
NT : The implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, an inclusive agreement for which President Etienne Tshisekedi had fully invested himself during his lifetime, is already undermined by the stalled discussions on certain points of The Special Arrangement, in particular on the question of the appointment of the Prime Minister and the control of key ministerial posts. It is getting worse with his disappearance, given that his wise advice and guidance, as the moral authority of one of the parties involved in the process, is lacking, as they weighed heavily to decant the crisis of the talks in a context also marked by significant divergences within its component on certain issues.
If the appointment of the Elder as head of the Monitoring Council for the Agreement was tailor-made and already symbolized the double concern of easing of tension of the political climate by the relative co-management of the pre-election period and research of the rigor in the monitoring of commitments, it is easy to infer that its sudden disappearance would significantly weaken the Monitoring Council in its effectiveness, putting every possible substitute to the challenge to prove at each trial that it would be as credible and incorruptible as a Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba in the same role. There is no doubt that the opposition can demonstrate maturity by negotiating responsibly and agreeing on the measures to be taken to successfully fill the vacuum left by the illustrious disappeared at the head of the Monitoring Council for the Agreement to ensure its effectiveness.
KT : It is an established fact in Congolese politics that political parties do not survive their leaders. What is your opinion on the future of UDPS, the party of Tshisekedi, after the death of its leader?
NT : In general, since the country’s independence to date, political parties in the DRC have been struggling, even during the lifetime of their charismatic leaders, as long as they are not related in any way to the power in place. The issue of the financing of political parties in the DRC is still unresolved, while the authoritarian regimes that have so far succeeded continue to lead a hard life to the opposition political parties: duplication of parties, debauchery of influential members , Arbitrary arrests, blackmail, etc. And even more so when the leader disappears, things become even more complicated: if they do not survive with much less influence on the terrain than during their moral authority, the « orphan » political parties are indeed doomed to disappear or to break up. The ABAKO of Kasa-Vubu, the MNC / Lumumba of Patrice Lumumba, MPR – private property of Mobutu, as well as the UFERI of Nguz a Karl-I-Bond, and we pass, do not seem to have resisted this hard reality.
KT : So that will also be the case for the UDPS, isn’t it?
NT : Things are not so automatic for all parties. Indeed, if the UDPS has repeatedly found itself on the verge of the break-up during its leader’s life time and survived, it is not only the fact of the radiance or charisma of the person of Etienne Tshisekedi. The endurance of the UDPS is also and above all the fact of the broad support that this party enjoys on behalf of the majority of the Congolese population because of the accuracy and the nobility of its long and painful political struggle: the fight for Democracy, the rule of law and the well-being of the Congolese people. I appeal to all the cadres of this party to remain calm during the Party Congress which will definitely determine its new leaders to pursue the noble struggle of the Limete Sphinx by placing the interests of the people above all else. The UDPS is a big party. Its survival is important for the democratization of the country and as a counterweight to the ruling power. My hope is that future leadership will bring together all the different factions of the party to put themselves in order of battle for the upcoming presidential, legislative and local deadlines.
KT : In general, how do you assess Tshisekedi’s role in bringing about democratic change in the DRC? Can we say that he was successful? If not, what could he have done otherwise?
NT : The correctness of the noble struggle of Etienne Tshisekedi has been largely favored by the permanent dictatorial drifts suffered by the people of the DRC from the Second Republic to this day. The constancy of this struggle, which some have rightly or wrongly assimilated to « radicalism », is in this respect a reply to the persistence of these aberrations and their adverse effects on the economic and social life of the Congolese.
This constancy was punctuated by moments of great frustration: arrests, intimidations, relegations … and episodes of relative relaxation (Marble Palace Agreement 1 & 2, Sovereign National Conference, Sun City Dialogue, New Year’s Eve Agreement, etc.). Moreover, the fight of Etienne Tshisekedi throughout these different episodes was not only a success or failure for his person. It was above all a source of inspiration and a model for the new generations.
KT : Did he still have some influence on youth in recent years?
NT : Yes of course. The advent and easy rise of citizen movements in civil society circles throughout the Republic (Filimbi or Lucha among others) must, among other causes, be explained by the same factors as those which Have justified the political struggle of Etienne Tshisekedi. Consequently, this struggle certainly had the merit of influencing the one in which the said movements now appear to be engaged. If the people are already taking charge, we can only associate this with Tshisekedi’s struggle without, of course, underestimating the invaluable contribution of the Diaspora and other actors involved in the peaceful struggle for change in our country.
KT : Do you think that his death could play a role in favor of the power and lead it to renege its commitments, in particular on the limitation of the mandates for Joseph Kabila?
NT : The vacuum created by the death of Etienne Tshisekedi will certainly influence the political calculations both in the staffs of the Power and in those of the opposition. Under these new conditions, it is possible that the opportunistic adjustments of both parties lead to a curious reconfiguration of power relations to the point of endangering the Agreement of 31 December 2016 and the current round of negotiations on The peaceful and consensual management of the pre-election period. But as the death of Etienne Tshisekedi does not change either the Constitution or the New Year’s Eve, any attempt to violate these two tools will certainly find the people on their way. The different rounds of negotiations arising from the non-organization of elections within the limits and conditions laid down by the Constitution have had the unsuspected power to convey a pedagogical message for the population. The latter is increasingly convinced that it is the last bulwark of respect for the constitutional order and that it has the historical mission to weigh with all its weight for this.
In this respect, Etienne Tshisekedi climbed several times to the niche to invite the raging populations to restraint. Now that he has gone, we must call on the government and the opposition to be cautious and circumspect, because anything can happen with incalculable consequences for the stability of the country and the future of our population.
KT : Any final word?
NT : The fight started by Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba is not over yet. It will not end until the DRC is a functioning democracy, a rule of law, an island of peace and shared prosperity, a country where good governance promotes sustainable development and equitably shares national wealth. The fight is not over as long as corruption, tribalism, favoritism, conflicts of interest, betrayals, predation of national wealth and the theft of public goods continue to undermine the country’s economic and social development. The struggle is not over as long as a minority oppresses the majority of our compatriots by flouting individual and collective freedoms. We will continue this fight until the final victory, which will make the DRC a stable, prosperous and equitable country that we could bequeath to our children and grandchildren in the same way that Etienne Tshisekedi bequeathed to us Courage and determination to assume ourselves.