DR Congo leader files bid for re-election amid crowded raceSun, 08 Oct 2023 05:17:36 GMT

DR Congo’s leader Felix Tshisekedi has submitted his candidacy for a second term in office, joining a crowded list of presidential hopefuls including opposition heavyweights and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.The turbulent central African nation, a vast and impoverished country of about 100 million people, is due to hold parliamentary and presidential votes on December 20. Tshisekedi, who came to power after an election in 2018, officially submitted his candidacy for a second five-year term in office in the capital Kinshasa on Saturday.  He thereby joins over a dozen opposition candidates, including political heavyweights and senior members of the previous administration, but the opposition is far from unified.Given the fractured opposition, the 60-year-old president is thought to stand a strong chance of winning again. “He’s in a good position,” said Congolese political scientist Christian Moleka.”He’s the incumbent, he has the resources of the state, people still believe in him and he’s managed to build strategic alliances,” he added. The divided political opposition would need to unite around a single candidate to stand a chance of beating Tshisekedi, according to Moleka.But that possibility appears slim. Several opposition figures who have something prove have thrown their hats in the ring.Moise Katumbi, a business magnate and former governor of then-Katanga province is amongst those running. He had been barred from contesting the 2018 vote.Fellow candidate Martin Fayulu says he won the popular vote in 2018 and that Tshisekedi took the presidency illegitimately.Nobel-Prize winner Denis Mukwege’s entry into the race has complicated matters further. The surgical gynaecologist and winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for his work with sexual assault victims,  announced his candidacy on October 2. He has “moral authority,” said a diplomat in Kinshasa, who declined to be named.- ‘Aggressive mode’ -Still, Mukwege is also little known outside of his native eastern DRC, and is viewed negatively in some quarters as a Western-backed candidate. Announcing his presidential bid this month, Mukwege told supporters that “unity of all forces” is needed to change the DRC.Mukwege is open to forming alliances, said Moleka, the political scientist, noting that it remains to seen whether other opposition figures are of a similar mind. Several analysts argue that should one unifying opposition candidate emerge, the move will likely arrive late in the election campaign.The reason for this, according to Moleka, is because that would avoid the government going into “aggressive mode” to defeat the candidate — by fair means or foul. Opposition candidates have in recent months decried what they term a narrowing of the ‘democratic space’ in the DRC. Opposition politician Cherubin Okenda, a member of Katumbi’s party, was assassinated in Kinshasa in July, for example, under circumstances that remain unclear. A leading Congolese journalist has also been imprisoned on charges of disseminating false information about the murder. On top of this, most opposition parties are convinced the elections will be fraudulent. – Distrust -Moleka said the “electoral process is built on a high level of mistrust” which could lead to disputed results. The possibility of instability is “explosive,” he added, given the backdrop of insecurity in the DRC’s east. Armed groups plague much of the mineral-rich east of the country, a legacy of regional wars that flared during the 1990s and 2000s.One such group, the M23, has captured swathes of territory since launching an offensive in late 2021, and edged close to the eastern city of Goma. Two former prime ministers who served under ex-Congolese president Joseph Kabila are also running: Augustin Matata and Adolphe Muzito. Another candidate is Noel Tshiani, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018. He has championed a proposed law that would limit high political office in the DRC to citizens born to two Congolese parents. Controversially, this would rule out Moise Katumbi, whose father was Italian. The DRC’s electoral commission is due to publish the list of provisional presidential candidates on October 25.