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DRC President Tshisekedi to spend $6m on anniversary of power transfer. Is there a reason to celebrate?

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Summing up the results of 2019, SADC News looks at how the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has changed with the new president taking over the power in the country “in a democratic and peaceful way.”

Next month, on January 24, the capital Kinshasa will host an event to commemorate the first anniversary of President Felix Tshisekedi’s accession to power after the former president, Joseph Kabila, handed it over on that very day this year. The government confirmed the celebration would cost $6 million.

The news has angered the opposition leaders and left the public stunned. In a country where most live on less that $2 a day, the decision to spend so much of an $11.5 billion budget of 2020 year on the celebration seems almost unreal.

“This is a comedy and madness,” former prime minister and leader of the Lamuka opposition party Adolphe Muzito announced.

Olivier Kamitatu, the spokesperson for Moïse Katumbi, also condemned the move, calling it a ‘‘mismanagement of public resources in the face of unending challenges of the country.”

Let’s further have a look at the most important events of 2019 in the political life of the DRC and how they were covered by the respectable major publications and international organisations.

For Tshisekedi and the DRC, the year began with a huge fraud, namely the falsified results of the presidential election. The Financial Times (FT), an international daily business newspaper, writes in more detail about it with a reference to the primary results from the polling stations. As per their reports, Martin Fayulu won 59.4% of the vote and was in the lead throughout the voting day in more than a dozen provinces, including Kinshasa. The abnormal change of the leader by the end of the day, clearly shown by FT on the published charts, indicates the use of the administrative resource by the DRC authorities controlled by Kabila and large-scale falsifications. This leads to the conclusion that the incumbent power represented by Kabila had realised the hopelessness of its candidate Emanuel Shadari and decided to negotiate with Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, who, at that time, had a falling out with the opposition coalition, which had elected Martin Fayulu as a single candidate. The latter was the one to win the election, according to all the ratings and polls.

Both Kabila and Tshisekedi knew about it, so the deal was probably as follows: Kabila retains all the strategic levers of governing the country in his hands, through the parliament and law enforcement agencies, as well as control over the mining, while Tshisekedi receives the presidency in return and is content with such symbolic decisions as an amnesty for the political prisoners or some reforms in the social sector. A hard choice at a great price. This deal was analysed by the Geopolitical Intelligence Service research organisation.

Curiously enough, even at the very beginning of January, before the inauguration, Tshisekedi did not even try to distance himself from Kabila and his old team, something he had repeatedly promised before the election, while condemning the dictatorship of the old regime. After the victory, the key representatives of this very dictatorship regularly met with Tshisekedi’s team to remind them of who the real master of the situation was there and to give instructions. One could attribute these meetings to Tshisekedi’s willingness to support a peaceful transfer of power without losing the continuity, but why then hide them? And then shamefully admit them after everything was revealed.

Fayulu had eventually appealed to the Constitutional Court of the country, which rejected his claims. It soon became clear that many members of the court had been involved in a major fraud and stained themselves with bribes, so an investigation was launched against them in connection with those offences. Would you consider their decisions legitimate then? The answer is obvious. Isn’t it more interesting, however, who exactly affected the court decision or bought their verdict? The answer here is quite simple as well.

In case of the specific results achieved by the symbolic decisions and speeches about democracy, it is, of course, a new loan from the IMF for $370 million. It is a meagre amount on the scale of the declared budget for 10 years as Tshisekedi wants to spend $87 billion (at least, this follows from his election statements), but no one, not even his close associates, understands where to get such money from. The word “loan” is emphasised, because it is not real money and not a gift, as many mistakenly believe, but namely a credit, which will have to be paid back somehow and no one knows how exactly yet. It could be a preferential access for the US and European companies to the energy resources, or the infrastructure projects in the DRC. In any case, this has little to do with the development of the DRC economy. The money is likely to be spent on time-limited projects, such as food purchases or the introduction of primary education, which, without enough funding, would be curtailed again.

Tshisekedi’s struggle against corruption is of particular interest. We attribute it to the category of all the same symbolic decisions designed to demonstrate the opposition of the new president to the old regime, which he is allegedly about to overthrow. Tshisekedi appointed a special anti-corruption adviser and created an appropriate commission; however, have you heard about any high-profile anti-corruption cases? Not even one? This is because the president “has no time to hang around in the past,” and, apparently, after the election, he simply lost interest in the issue of corruption, “I have too much work waiting for me” (quotes from his statements). Given that the parliament, courts, and law enforcement agencies are still controlled by the old regime and Kabila personally, the refusal to fight against the past economic crimes means Tshisekedi has refused to follow up on his election programme promises and plans to overthrow the old regime.

Another case is also worth mentioning in the context of the fight against corruption, namely the case of embezzlement of $15 million. The money had been received from the sale of petroleum products but never reached the budget. Even though $15 million is just the tip of the iceberg and a speck in the sea of the corrupt money, reportedly billions of dollars, but the story received strong publicity and has become widely discussed since it left no doubt. As the European Union announced only two weeks ago, Tshisekedi had failed in his anti-corruption work.

Trying all this year not to lose the role of an independent politician, Tshisekedi had been bargaining for five months with Kabila about the posts in his administration and the balance of power in the government. Considering that Sylvestre Ilunga, a Kabila ally, became the prime minister, and the parliament remained completely under the control of Kabila’s party, it is clear that all these attempts only demonstrated the helplessness of the new president.

When it comes to the security, the situation is no better. About 130 groups continue to terrorise the east of the country. Some of the militants have taken refuge in Rwanda, which is apparently doing little to bring peace to the border. Nevertheless, this does not prevent Tshisekedi from showing his warm relations with Paul Kagame in public which only convinces the Congolese that the capture of a couple of militant leaders along with the military operation conceived by the president are merely another effort undertaken to maintain his own image.

The fact that almost all foreign doctors from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders left the epicenter of Ebola, fearing for their safety because of the increased attacks, is also eloquent. Needless to say, the virus has become much harder to contain because of that.

In our opinion, these are the results of 2019 and, apparently, very little will change in 2020. Share your thoughts on our insight on social media and comment below.

P.S. From the Editor:

When you hear or read about the first peaceful transfer of power in the DRC, you need to clearly understand this is a lie, because no actual transfer of power occurred at all. It remains the same, together with all the problems the DRC faces and cannot overcome thanks to those who are glad to be deceived by Tshisekedi’s sweet talking, who pretends to be an opposition politician and a past regime opponent. This situation is even worse than an open dictatorship, because it will require at least several years for the people to soak it in, which means that placing the Congo on the path of development and solving its real issues will drag on for years on end.

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