Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, has met with top opposition figures, Moïse Katumbi Chapwe, leader of the Ensemble pour la République party and Jean-Pierre Bemba, President of the MLC.
The meeting was held on December 26 at the presidential palace in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.
DRC’s presidency said in a brief statement that the meeting “essentially revolved around major issues relating to the overall situation in the DRC.”
Tshisekedi, who will in February 2021 assume the position of chair African Union, has for the last few months been holding meetings with political leaders and civil society to free himself from the tight grip of former president Joseph Kabila and his Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) coalition.
DRC’s Catholic Church said Martin Fayulu won the 2018 presidential race but Kabila and Tshisekedi signed a secret deal that allowed the latter to take power with strings attached.
According to the terms of the deal, Tshisekedi and Kabila were to agree on major appointments of judicial and security officials and the incumbent was mandated to support a pro-Kabila candidate in the 2023 presidential elections.
However, Tshisekedi recently appointed three top judges without consulting Kabila’s group and fired army officers loyal to Kabila.
This set off a chain of events that threatens to dismember the ruling coalition.
Tshisekedi claims his plans to implement reforms in key sectors of the economy have been sabotaged by the secret deal with Kabila, turning his presidency into a nightmare.
It appears Tshisekedi is wooing the top opposition leaders for support as he considers dissolving the National Assembly to gain support in Parliament.
A Parliamentary majority would give Tshisekedi a strong hand to run the country without pressure from Kabila.
It remains unclear if Katumbi, a wealthy businessman and former Governor of mineral-rich Katanga Province and ex presidential candidate, Bemba, will support Tshisekedi.
Katumbi, whom Kabila forced into exile, recently reclaimed his mining company – NB Mining Africa’s in Lubumbashi.
Katumbi was once an ally of Kabila but the pair fell out before the former received a three-year jail term in absentia for alleged property fraud. He returned to DRC in 2019.
Kabila, who run DRC for 18 years, remains a force to reckon with as he enjoys considerable support in the armed forces and provincial assemblies.
The Constitution allows Kabila, a Senator for life, to seek another term in office.
Bemba, who served 10 years at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague over human rights abuses during his days as a rebel leader, was a candidate in the presidential election before being invalidated by the electoral commission.
He would later return to Belgium from where he led the Lamuka coalition supporting Fayulu’s candidacy alongside Katumbi who was blocked from entering the country during the election exercise.