The DRC head of state and his predecessor appear to be in constant disagreement over the internal negotiations of their respective coalitions.
Sometimes against the judicial reform undertaken by the Common Front for Congo (FCC, the coalition formed around Joseph Kabila), sometimes against the appointment of Ronsard Malonda at the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), and sometimes in favour of the “Defence of the Institutions of the Republic” advocated by the FCC, these various demonstrations gave the disturbing spectacle of a political scene on edge.
Former President Joseph Kabila has called on his party to mount ‘resistance’ against his successor Félix Tshisekedi.
The former president hosted FCC party members at his home in Kingakati on 29 October to discuss the coalition with CACH and, in a first, the agreement he established with Félix Tshisekedi.
While the ruling coalition is plagued by a full-blown crisis, the members of the Common Front for Congo (FCC), Joseph Kabila’s political party, were asked to attend an emergency meeting in Kingakati on 29 October.
Several important figures spoke at the meeting, including the presidents of both houses of parliament, Jeanine Mabunda and Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, before the former head of state took the floor. The FCC’s coordinator, Néhémie Mwilanya, moderated the discussion, which lasted more than three hours.
According to our sources and documents on hand, Kabila spoke at length regarding his vision of the country’s security and economic conditions which, in his view, “are not improving”, before taking stock of the coalition the FCC forms alongside Félix Tshisekedi’s Cap for Change (CACH) party.
‘They don’t share our values’
“For me, the purpose of this meeting isn’t to address the president’s speech or determine the FCC’s position on the [national] consultations [which Tshisekedi initiated on 23 October]. It’s an occasion for me to explain what we feel is the main reason for this crisis,” said Kabila.
“What do you want me to say about the coalition, we’ve reached an impasse!” he added. “My suggestion is we speak in terms of a resistance rather than a war because resistance is lawful.” From the former president’s perspective, the crisis is mainly attributable to Tshisekedi’s “non-compliance” with their agreement as well as the Constitution.
“Our CACH friends don’t share our values, like keeping one’s word, for instance. When I give you my word, or the FCC for that matter, it’s a word of honour. And they don’t adhere to texts either. When we make a commitment or sign an agreement, we follow through on it. But that isn’t what our CACH friends do,” he said. Kabila also touched on the appointment orders issued within the army and the judiciary, which the FCC has consistently protested in recent months.
“I’ve told them there are several options on the table [to resolve the crisis]. The first involved forcing the orders through and, if that were to happen, there would be a crisis because that violates the Constitution. The second was to accept the swearing in of one of the three judges whose particular appointment isn’t an issue, while putting the instatement of the two others on hold. They responded by saying that nothing could be done about it because the president had already signed the orders,” said Kabila.
He continued: “My third suggestion was to wait until March or April in order to select them randomly and in that case we would have complied with the process. But their response was the same. The last option was to refer to the agreement we signed here, with three countries as witnesses. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to contact these countries and give them an advisory role? [The members of the president’s coterie] told me yes, but that it should happen later on because they think the judges need to be sworn in first.”
‘The demon of 1960’
According to reports on the discussion, Kabila also spoke at length about the agreement he established with President Tshisekedi, drawing a parallel with the circumstances the country faced at the time of independence, asserting that “the demon of 1960 is still present”.
“The day we signed the agreement, I told Tshisekedi – and there are witnesses here with us in this room – that we had virtually the same configuration as in 1960 and that we needed to be a lot smarter about it. We should resist the temptation to have control over the majority and, especially, to eliminate it,” said Kabila. “His response was, ‘Mr President, don’t worry about it, we’re going to do what’s good for the country and everything will be fine.’”
Kabila added: “I firmly believe that this agreement has helped us maintain peace and stability up to this point. It’s known as the ‘Agreement for peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo’. I promise to bring you a copy next time and we’ll read it together.”
‘2023 is no longer far in the future’
While the FCC has yet to adopt an official position regarding the political consultations Tshisekedi announced, Kabila has shown the same kind of scepticism that Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary expressed during a meeting one day earlier: “I know that these days MPs are being courted around the clock with promises, but they’re only promises.”
“I’m no prophet but if, by some form of magic, a new majority rises from the ashes of the FCC, one or two months down the line, public opinion will say that these MPs come at too great of a cost and that they should go back to where they came from. I’ve been told that everyone was consulted, but no one ever contacted me, though I’m the bigwig,” Shadary said, eliciting laughter in the audience.
At the end of his speech, Kabila asked his peers to “rest easy” and show more solidarity. Concerned that disgruntled members of his coalition may leave, the former president broached the issue of the FCC’s structure, saying that a model currently existed, before apologising for the delay in its implementation. “I think it was also necessary to take the time to examine who is in our political family and what each person can do to serve it. By 5 November, our structure will definitely be in place,” Kabila said.
“The FCC majority is real and we all need to defend this power. Each and every one of us must get ready for 2023, it’s no longer far in the future,” he added. The FCC’s official position on political consultations was expected to be announced on 2 November after a two-day retreat.
On Tuesday, 15 September, Kabila made his official comeback on the Congolese political stage, although he has never entirely abandoned it since he left office. With his bushy, greying beard – the very same one he shaved off for Félix Tshisekedi’s inauguration ceremony on 24 January 2019 – and girded with his “Senator for Life” scarf, Kabila made a grand entrance.
Bestowed with the title “Senator for Life”, former president Joseph Kabila made a big comeback on the Congolese political stage during the new parliamentary session. His resurfacing came as a surprise, though the 2023 presidential election is already on everyone’s minds.
“Joseph Kabila’s return is not a slogan – it’s a reality. He’s going to return to power and we are working towards that goal,” said Claude Nyamugabo, minister of environment and sustainable development. He has been making the rounds of the Haut-Katanga and Lualaba provinces since early last week and was in Kolwezi on official business to evaluate the environmental impact of mining operations when he made this remark, which has reverberated like an echo back to top party officials in Kinshasa.