/ 14 January 2019

Who is Martin Fayulu?

Opposition presidential candidate in the DRC
Opposition presidential candidate in the DRC, Martin Fayulu, leaves the CMP with his wife Esther after they attended a Sunday mass on January 13. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

In the days leading up to the December 30 election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, former ExxonMobil manager Martin Fayulu was tipped to win the election.

His party, the Commitment for Citizenship and Development launched in 2009, became an alternative opposition to the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) founded by the DRC’s long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, the father of president-elect Felix Tshisekedi.

After spending two decades working with the US-based oil company — working his way through the company as an auditor and later as a director-general — the 62-year-old stepped down from his position in 2003, leaving ExxonMobil amicably, Al Jazeera reported.

Fayulu has had several forays into politics but was first elected to Parliament in 2006, according to AFP.

Before becoming a full-time politician, Fayulu was a part of the Sovereign National Conference in 1991 that would campaign for a multi-party democracy during Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship. Se Seko would be removed from power and replaced by Kabila’s father Laurent in 1997.

Fayulu became a prominent figure in the 2016 and 2017 protests, calling for DRC President Joseph Kabila to step down as Kabila continued to delay the national elections. Kabila had been power since 2001.

Fayulu was reportedly arrested several times during opposition rallies against Kabila and sustained a gunshot wound from a rubber bullet.

Political analyst Albert Moleka told the BBC last year Fayulu could “become the new Etienne Tshisekedi” if he remained incorruptible. “He’s the one who embodies the real opposition,” Moleka added, saying Kabila saw Fayulu as a “radical” and a “threat”.

Fayulu’s party held three seats in the national assembly following the 2011 DRC election, but he rose to prominence after receiving backing as the unity candidate from six opposition parties which included former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Katanga governor Moise Katumbi in November 2018.

The deal — known as the Lamuka coalition — however, soon fell apart after Felix Tshisekedi announced he would run for president, pulling out of the deal along with politician Vital Kamerhe. Kamerhe supported Tshisekedi’s bid for the presidency, and it was reported in December that should Tshisekedi win the election, Kamerhe would become the prime minister.

With the support of both Bemba and Katumbi, who were barred from running in the election by the electoral commission, Fayulu was confident he could win the election. Speaking to the BBC, Fayulu said the “Congolese call me [the] people’s soldier”.

During his campaign, Fayulu promised to create a “dignified and prosperous Congo” and promised to restore security in conflict-hit parts of the DRC by relocating the nation’s logistics base to Kinshasa.

Fayulu holds two masters degrees: one in general economics from the University of Paris and a masters in business administration from the European University of America in San Francisco in the US.

Fayulu owns a hotel in Kinshasa, which was closed in May 2018, reportedly for a tax audit, but has since reopened.

Fayulu challenges the DRC election results

The provisional results released by the DRC’s electoral commission CENI last week Thursday, however, announced that Fayulu was the runner-up.

According to CENI, Fayulu came second with 34.8% of the electoral vote, trumped by Felix Tshisekedi who garnered 38.57%.

READ MORE: Who is Felix Tshisekedi?

Calling the results an “electoral coup” last week, Fayulu has taken the matter to the Constitutional Court. He believes that he won 61% of the vote, according to findings from the DRC’s Roman Catholic Church’s 40 000 election observers.

The same findings stated that election winner Tshisekedi, only won 18% of the vote, news agency the Associated Press reported.

Fayulu wants a manual recount of all the votes for all three elections — the presidential, national and provincial — accusing Tshisekedi of making a “secret deal” with Kabila, according to Al Jazeera.

Speaking to supporters over the weekend, Fayulu said,”I am hoping that the constitutional court will call the electoral commission to recount the ballot papers. They [the results] are false, fabricated, nothing to do with the truth. The truth has to come from the recount of the ballot paper.”

The court is expected to meet this week to discuss Fayulu’s application, Al Jazeera reported. According to the publication, if the judges feel there is no case, the matter will not be heard and Tshisekedi will be inaugurated on January 18.

Fayulu has claimed that Kabila sees him as a threat. Telling the media on Saturday that Kabila’s presidential guard attempted to prevent him from submitting his appeal documents to the Constitutional Court. 

The Roman Catholic Church and the Southern African Development Community have suggested that a recount of the votes “would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers”.

READ MORE: SADC urges unity government after DRC vote

Fayulu has expressed his gratitude for SADC’s support for a recount, tweeting on Sunday, “It would be dangerous not to support the democratic process in the DRC. We call on all parties to take their responsibilities to restore the truth of polls.”