His recent death in Brussels at the age of 84 has yet again reminded the continent [Africa] that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is due for elections. Étienne Tshisekedi’s political life started when he came into prominence as an adviser to the first Prime Minister of the then Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. He is a man, who hand in hand with Mobutu Sese Seko took part in the second coup which led to the impeachment of President Kasavubu. Etienne in 1967 played a role in amending the Congolese constitution.
During President Mobutu’s rule, Étienne held various prominent government positions before the two eventually had a political fallout. A man who until 1980 served in the central committee of the Popular Movement of the Revolution.
After his fallout with Mobutu, Etienne went on to form his own political party. The Union for Democracy and Social Progress aimed at countering the ruling party. Based on his political convictions and disagreement with President Laurent Kabila who had just overthrown Mobuto Sese Seko. He was amongst the 250 listed citizens barred from contesting in the then elections. Étienne was arrested several times. This is an opposition leader who contested against Joseph Kabila and lost.
Before his mortal departure, he had been a leading vocal voice of the opposition. He was also a man who was seen to be holding the opposition together. A man who refused to be micro-managed by the seating leadership of the day in the DRC.
With him gone, much aspersion is thrown that perhaps President Joseph Kabila might undermine the signed Comprehensive Political Accord, which amongst other things, talks about elections taking place in 2017. This is alleged because there is a believe that the rest of the smaller opposition
parties are controlled by President Kabila, bringing fear that his absence might weaken the opposition.
During his lifetime, Étienne served his people to the fullest. Throughout his life, he fought a course he believed was right. He has been there for all generations since the country gained independence; he has been advancing the interest of his people. His political party has a huge task of carrying the baton and representing the voice of the opposition thus uniting the opposition and upholding the accord.
Multi-party democracies are important in any state. What they must guard against is to allow opposition to be swallowed with little or no voice. If the rumor or intention exist that President Kabila might want to use this death to extend his term, then this will be unfortunate.
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked and an NEC member
of the ANCYL. She writes in her personal capacity.