Posted On February 1, 2017 By In Non classifié(e), None With 36 Views

Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo’s veteran opposition boss, dead at 84

Kinshasa, Feb 1, 2017 (AFP)

DR Congo opposition chief Etienne Tshisekedi, who died Wednesday aged 84, spent a lifetime in the vast African country’s politics, first as ally-turned-enemy of despot Mobutu Sese Seko, then as rival to the father-son Kabila dynasty that followed.
Tshisekedi, a burly figure who remained largely out of sight in recent years due to frail health, had flown out of Kinshasa for treatment in Brussels only on Tuesday, just as the country stands at a key turning-point.
The opposition coalition he headed is negotiating the next steps in a power-sharing deal agreed on New Year’s Eve to avoid fresh violence after President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December.
The deal brokered by the country’s influential Roman Catholic bishops allows Kabila to stay in office until late 2017 in tandem with a transitional body and a new premier, yet to be agreed.
Before his death, Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) had said he would return to Congo soon to “take up his historic responsibilities” but there was great concern for “the Old Man”, as he is affectionately known.
After two years of medical treatment in former colonial power Belgium, Tshisekedi made a triumphant return in July with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to welcome him home.
– ‘Sphinx of Limete’ –
Nicknamed too the “Sphinx of Limete” — the Kinshasa neighbourhood where he lives — Tshisekedi wore a cap above broad shoulders and a thin smile, which made rare appearances on his round face.
Born December 14, 1932 in Kasai Occidental province — his hometown of Kananga was called Luluabourg in what was then the Belgian Congo — Tshisekedi received the newly independent country’s first doctorate in law at age 29.
He was still a student when a young army colonel, Joseph-Desire Mobutu, seized power and declared he had “neutralised” legendary prime minister Patrice Lumumba and president Joseph Kasa-Vubu.
Tshisekedi was named to the “college of commissioners” that Mobutu designated to run the government, which in January 1961 signed an arrest warrant for Lumumba. He was assassinated after being taken into custody.
After Mobutu staged a second coup in November 1965, Tshisekedi served as interior, justice and planning minister, and was the first secretary of Mobutu’s party.
He was re-elected member of parliament in 1970, but a decade later broke with Mobutu, when he and 12 other lawmakers wrote an open letter denouncing the kleptocratic leader’s corrupt and predatory rule.
He was sent to prison and released in 1982, the year he co-founded the UDPS, which became the chief opposition party after Mobutu reluctantly lifted his ban on political parties in 1990.
Pushing for a democratic transition from the Mobutu regime, Tshisekedi was elected prime minister in August 1992, but Mobutu fired him just three days later. Tshisekedi however held the PM’s post for seven months, although the government was not recognised by Mobutu.
After Mobutu was ousted in 1997 in a rebellion led by Kabila’s father, Laurent, Tshisekedi quickly became an opponent of the new regime — a stance that continued after Laurent Kabila’s assassination in 2001 and his son’s rise to power.
– Signed peace deal –
He signed the peace deal ending the 1998-2003 war that followed Mobutu’s ouster, but refused to take part in Laurent Kabila’s transitional government.
He boycotted the 2006 elections, the country’s first democratic vote in more than 40 years, levelling accusations of fraud and in 2007 had to be medevaced out for treatment.
He returned in 2010 to run against Kabila for the presidency, and when beaten in the problem-fraught November 2011 vote declared himself president.
“Every day of my life I’ve dreamt of becoming president of the republic,” he had said in an interview at the time.
Keen to avert violence in the vast trouble-prone nation, Tshisekedi helped bring the opposition together in a coalition that last year — albeit reluctantly — agreed to leave Kabila in office temporarily.
One of his five children, Felix, is hoping to be named prime minister in the transitional government set to run the mineral-rich nation approaching the size of western Europe.

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