How do you feel when two or three strong men who have ganged up to beat the daylight out of you start fighting themselves? A biblical history tells of a trilateral military coalition involving Moab, Ammon and Seir which set to dislodge ancient Israelite and there was a divine intervention that made the soldiers fight and kill themselves instead, to the joy of the common enemy they had set out to fight.
Well, that fortunate ‘common enemy’ might just be President Joseph Kabila and his political son, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. These two must be having a good laugh right now as the Lamuka coalition gets broken before it is even ready for election.
Tunda ya Kasende, the PPRD’s Deputy Secretary General, mocked the breaking coalition (on behalf of the party): “I wonder if they will have time to prepare to face our candidate who has a team which has been working for many months”.
The recent wisdom of the opposition parties in the DR Congo to coalesce and overthrow Kabila’s political dynasty in Kinshasa must have put some fear in the Kabila camp, despite their choice of an unpopular candidate. But, within hours, the Lamuka coalition is already cracked. It is enough for Kabila and Shadary smile to their phone screens when they chat about it on whatsapp. The big worry they should have had in the build up to 23 December may be nothing after all.
Without mincing words, the biggest mistake these opposition politicians will make is to watch the brilliant idea of Lamuka coalition that they have birthed already, die, due to crisscrossing interests.
The biggest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) are not happy that their candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, was not selected to be the candidate and gave him an ultimatum to breakaway from the coalition.
The same scenario played out in another prominent party, the Union for the Congolese Nation (UCN), led by Vital Kamerhe. They too announced their withdrawal from the Lamuka.
From experience, a political coalition is a very reliable way political strongholds like that of the Kabila family in the Congo can be defeated, especially because the vast majority of Congolese voters, just like many other electorates in developing nations, may not be very enlightened to kick out a non-performing government. It was a coalition that defeated a 60-year ruling party in Malaysia this year; it was a coalition that defeated Nigeria’s 16-year ruling party in 2015. In Cameroon, the opposition did not realise this and they still have Paul Biya to bow to, whether they like it or yes.
This is why the Congolese political leaders must take heed and realise that whatever disagreement they cannot resolve and move on with that unity is already working in the favour of Kabila and Shadary. If they mean well for their country as they would have us believe, that coalition should be seen as an easier, if not only means of salvation. It is a cause they must be commitment to.
The December election does have one unique thing about: it will be a battle of new faces. After all the pressures from home and abroad, Joseph Kabila’s name is no longer on the ballot paper. But to retain his political relevance and, maybe control, he has put forward Mr Shadary who is under an EU sanction. But despite the efforts Kabila would put in to have his man in there, the political space is a bit more open for competition. If the opposition fails to capitalise on this ‘open’ space, it might just be a huge opportunity lost.
On the other side, DR Congo’s most prominent opposition figure, Étienne Tshisekedi of the UDPS has passed on in 2017, with his son, Felix Tshisekedi taking his place in the party. Two other prominent players in the political sphere, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi, have been disqualified from contesting in the election. If the Lamuka succeeds, Vital Kamerhe too will not be on the ballot.
So it is all about a new political dawn in the country. Isn’t this a wonderful opportunity for the opposition to go ahead with the Lamuka Coalition? If all the supporters of Bemba, Katumbi, Tshisekedi, Kamerhe, the G7 and other political movements in the opposition come together, there will be nothing stopping whoever they present in the election.
But, in all, what is more important is their choice of a candidate and reason for wanting to take the government. Martin Fayulu is a well known administrator in the private sector and currently a legislator but his political face is not as bold as others earlier mentioned. While the larger support he could enjoy is enough to make him win, will he be able to do it differently?
John Mbaku advises the opposition that it is beyond convincing people to vote against the ruling party; they have to:
…show the citizens that they (i.e., the opposition) can deal effectively and fully with the country’s multifarious problems, most of which, like insecurity and poverty, have affected millions of people since independence. Thus, the opposition must not only be cognisant of the importance of unity and cooperation as an effective strategy to fight government tyranny but must be ready to provide citizens with a viable alternative to the failed policies of the incumbent government. It is not enough for the opposition to simply accuse the president and his associates of incompetence, impunity, lack of accountability, and the failure to improve the security situation in the country, as well as, advance economic growth and development. The opposition must offer the people with a viable basket of policies that can provide them with opportunities for self-actualisation.
Whatever stands in the way of the Lamuka stands in the way of a new DR Congo and that must be removed. The election is barely a month away by the way. It is high time the world started seeing something positively different coming from the Congo. The opposition parties make us believe they have those answers but if they toy with this opportunity, it will unfortunately remain a dream deferred, forgone. It can only mean they individually want power and not the growth of the Congo.
If they forget that there is little time for too much talks and concentrate on personal gains, Kabila will not only have a good laugh, he will have the last laugh.