/ 10 January 2019

Who is Felix Tshisekedi?

Felix Tshisekedi has promised the return of the rule of law to the DRC
Felix Tshisekedi has promised the return of the rule of law to the DRC, to bring about peace and to fight the 'gangrene' of corruption. (Caroline Thirion/AFP/Getty Images)

The provisional winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s December 30 election, Felix Tshisekedi, is the son of the country’s long-time opposition leader, Etienne.

The 55-year-old has led his father’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), since March last year following Etienne’s death in February.

Etienne was the main opposition leader during Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship (1965 to 1997), Laurent-Desire Kabila’s presidency (1997-2001) and Laurent’s son Joseph’s government (2001 to 2017).

Etienne was viewed as “stubborn and proud”, AFP reports, and a “man of the country”, according to the Guardian.

The former chief of staff for Etienne, Albert Moleka, told the BBC in December that Felix was not his father’s first choice for the party’s leadership: “Etienne Tshisekedi was very vocal about his scepticism towards his son’s abilities. … He was someone who fought for the people and so he wasn’t going to give his son a free pass.”

Felix has been criticised for his lack of charisma and political experience, drawing his political legitimacy from his father, Mail & Guardian Africa editor Simon Allison wrote in his article Hunting for ghosts in Kinshasa.

Leaving the DRC for Belgium in 1985, Felix earned his diploma in marketing and communication and moved into politics. While in Belgium, he would work his way up to serve in the position of national secretary for external relations in 2008.

Prior to his election win, Felix reportedly told supporters that he doesn’t have any ambition to rival his father, saying “He is my master, and you don’t rival the master.”

Felix has promised the return of the rule of law to the DRC, to bring about peace and to fight the “gangrene” of corruption. He has also said that his main priority will be the fight against poverty, the BBC reported.

Following the announcement of his victory, he was reported by Al Jazeera to have said he is “willing to be a president for all the people of Congo”.

Election legitimacy

Felix won 7 million votes, 38.6% of the national electorate, coming ahead of favoured opposition candidate former ExxonMobil manager Martin Fayulu with 6.4 million votes. While Joseph Kabila’s hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, garnered 4.4 million votes. Over 18-million ballots were cast during the December 30 election.

Polls showed that Fayulu was the favourite, the Washington Post reported, suggesting that Fayulu may challenge Felix’s win in court. On Thursday morning, Fayulu said the election results were “a true electoral coup”.

Several weeks before the election Kabila’s party tried to orchestrate a power-sharing deal to keep Shadary in the race, Al Jazeera reported. According to the publication, Felix’s camp has admitted to contacting Kabila’s party but says no deals have been made.

Following the election results on Thursday morning, Felix recognised Kabila as an “important political partner”.