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Monday, 18th March 2019
5:39:32pm

Central Africa

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Former Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila’s coalition won a clear majority in senate elections on Friday, officials said, further undermining his successor Felix Tshisekedi’s ability to govern independently.

Opposition leader Tshisekedi won a surprise victory in the presidential election on Dec. 30 over Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Kabila was barred by term limits from standing for a new term after 18 years in power.

But Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition won about 70 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament and an overwhelming majority of provincial assembly seats in elections also held on Dec. 30.

In a statement, FCC national coordinator Nehemie Mwilanya said the coalition had won more than two-thirds of the 109 seats in the senate, or upper chamber, in Friday’s elections, in which only provincial assembly members can vote.

“The Common Front for Congo, which hails this resounding victory, confirms its supremacy as the premier political force in Democratic Republic of Congo,” Mwilanya said.

Jean-Baudouin Mayo, an official from Tshisekedi’s CACH coalition, acknowledged that the FCC had won a clear majority.

In addition to the 108 elected senators, Kabila automatically gets a seat in the upper chamber under Congo’s constitution as a former president. 

KABILA INFLUENCE

The results of the parliamentary and provincial elections suggest Kabila will retain significant influence in Congo, a vast, mineral-rich central African country of about 80 million people.

During the presidential election campaign, Tshisekedi promised to make a clean break with Kabila’s tenure, which was marked by persistent corruption, deadly militia violence in the east and prodigious production of copper and cobalt that nevertheless failed to significantly improve living conditions.

Supporters of his opponent, Martin Fayulu, have accused Tshisekedi of striking a deal with Kabila to rig the presidential election when it became clear Kabila’s preferred candidate could not win.

Tshisekedi and Kabila’s camps both deny the election was rigged but acknowledge they are engaged in talks about cabinet appointments under a power-sharing deal in line with Congo’s semi-presidential system.

Friday’s senate elections have been marred by widespread accusations of corruption. About 20 candidates from across the political spectrum withdrew from their races over what they said were demands for bribes of tens of thousands of dollars.

Congo’s attorney general asked the electoral commission to postpone the vote over the allegations but it declined to do so. 

Although Tshisekedi took office in January in Congo’s first-ever transfer of power via the ballot box, Kabila’s cabinet minister are still in place as negotiations over the nomination of a prime minister proceed.

Tshisekedi has made some breaks with Kabila-era policies, most recently by announcing on Tuesday that he would free three prominent political prisoners and 700 others jailed under his predecessor’s administration.

-Reuters

Congo's new President Felix Tshisekedi on Wednesday pardoned about 700 political prisoners who were jailed under his predecessor.

Tshisekedi signed the decree, fulfilling a promise he made earlier this month to do so during his first 100 days in office.

Among those set for release is Firmin Yangambi, who was sentenced in 2009 to 20 years in prison on charges of being a threat to national security. Also being freed is Franck Diongo, an opposition figure who was sentenced to five years during the previous administration.

Tshisekedi was declared winner of the December 30 election, leading Congo to its first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium nearly 60 years ago. He succeeded Joseph Kabila, who governed the largely impoverished but mineral-rich central African country for 18 years.

The Democratic Republic of Congo hopes for political change following elections in late December, as thousands of militia - including child soldiers -are giving up their arms in Kasai, a stronghold of new president Felix Tshisekedi.

Tshisekedi, who was an opposition leader, has also promised to reinvigorate justice and fight corruption in Congo. He made the declaration at the beginning of March in the presence of members of the government, military, civil and judicial authorities as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

The president has also said he would work actively to ensure the conditions for a rapid return of those who are outside the country for political reasons. While on his first international trip to neighboring Republic of Congo in February, he urged tens of thousands of political exiles to return home, saying everyone would be needed to move Congo forward.

-AFP

An Ebola treatment centre at the epicentre of the current outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has resumed operations after it was closed in response to an attack last week, the Congolese health ministry said on Sunday.

The facility in the city of Butembo was one of two centres torched by unknown assailants in the space of a few days, prompting Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend medical activities.  

Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they work to contain the Ebola outbreak, which has become the worst in Congo’s history.

The ministry said the Butembo treatment centre reopened on Saturday. “For now it is managed by the ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organization and UNICEF,” it said in a statement. 

MSF has not said when it might resume medical activities in the area.

The current Ebola epidemic, first declared last August, is believed to have killed at least 561 people so far and infected over 300 more.

-Reuters  

Martin Fayulu, the runner-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo's controversial presidential vote, said on Wednesday he would refuse to take his seat as an MP, describing the role as inappropriate for someone who considered himself to be the country's "elected president."

Fayulu is pursuing a campaign of verbal opposition to the outcome of the December 30 elections, which he says was rigged.

He was credited with 34.8 percent of the vote against 38.5 percent for fellow opposition candidate, Felix Tshisekedi.

"I was elected president of the republic - I cannot fall back on being an MP, never!" he told AFP. 

"I am the elected president, and this is what I consider myself to be. I cannot be both the elected president and an MP," he said.

An aide to Fayulu confirmed that the MP had written to the administration of the National Assembly to say "he will not take his seat as a member for the city of Kinshasa."

Fayulu says the outcome of the election was a stitchup by Tshisekedi and the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, who was stepping down after 18 years in power.

He maintains he picked up around 60 percent of the vote. His claims of flaws have been boosted by the powerful Catholic church, which deployed 40 000 election observers, and the European Union.

Abroad, and at home, Tshisekedi's declared victory seems otherwise to have been largely accepted, given the country's bloody history.

His election marked the first peaceful transition of power since the Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Despite this, Tshisekedi, 55, finds himself having to share power, braking his declared ambitions of reforming a country marked by corruption and rights abuses.

He cannot push through his choice for prime minister as Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) wields a huge majority in the National Assembly, for which elections were also held on December 30.

The FCC has 342 of the 485 seats while only around 50 are members of the CACH, the bloc representing Tshisekedi, whose late father Etienne spent 35 years in opposition but never reached the top.

In a visit to Namibia last week, Tshisekedi said he would push ahead with naming a "moderator" to assemble a majority to back his choice for prime minister, but the FCC rebuffed his move.

Tshisekedi vented his frustration, declaring: "The president that I am will not accept being a president who reigns but doesn't govern."

-AFP

Eight people died in three shootings in Goma, eastern DR Congo, the town mayor said on Sunday, while others complained authorities were slow to react to violence in North Kivu province.

"In Mugunga (district), there was shooting last night. Five people were killed and more injured. In Katoy, one was killed near a petrol station and further north towards Buhene two people were killed," Timothee Muissa Kiense told AFP, adding that investigations were under way.

Benin Butatunda, vice-chairperson of a Mugunga youth association charged meanwhile that "assaillants fired on passers-by. Authorities did not intervene in time to save human lives.

"There is much tension here in Mugunga. The population is angry at the authorities' lethargy," Butatunda said. 

The shootings came as Martin Fayulu, controversially beaten by fellow opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi in the December 30 presidential election, was in the province for a meeting at Butembo, 266km from Goma.

-AFP

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