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DRC: what challenges for the second half of Félix Tshisekedi's mandate?

At mid-term, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi still faces countless challenges, especially in terms of security and the fight against corruption.

While he announced at the end of June to be a candidate for his own succession, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, still has everything to prove. The President of the African Union (AU), who should Head of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) very soon, has shown itself to its advantage on the international stage. But in his country, Félix Tshisekedi still has many challenges to overcome. Among its projects still in progress, corruption, serious crime and terrorism. Since the start of the political crisis with Kabila, the president has said he will stop at nothing to "clean up the country". While struggling to achieve results in the fight against terrorism, the Congolese president has extended the state of siege for a third time in North Kivu and Ituri. Failing to destroy the terrorist threat, Tshisekedi intends to put an end to the corruption that reigns in the ranks of the general staff.

Read: DRC: 55 people killed, what are the FARDC doing?

This is undoubtedly the first real punch of the Congolese president since his arrival in power: barely two months after his visit to Goma, Béni, North Kivu and Ituri, the officers of the army accused of corruption fall one after another. The end of an omerta? Felix Tshisekedi had assured in June that "there is a problem of manpower in our army, a lot of shenanigans undermine our security forces". His words had been harsh: "We kill in silence, we scheming in silence." This is what we have to tackle ”. After the words, Tshisekedi took action. Because the experts are unanimous: the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) are capable of pacifying the east of the country ... on condition of cleaning up their midst. In Bunia, eleven officers were arrested for embezzlement. In Beni, six soldiers, including five senior officers, are detained for the same reasons. Among the accused are three colonels. And Tshisekedi, in this cleaning policy, can boast of significant popular support.

A thoughtful political strategy

For Tshisekedi, the fight against corruption in the army is the logical continuation of a clean hands operation launched in the political world. In 2020, the Congolese president had not lifted a finger to stop the procedure targeting his chief of staff Vital Kamerhe. Then, in December of the same year, the office of the National Assembly and its president Jeannine Mabunda were dismissed. Then it was the turn of Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga and his government… With each stalled development project, Tshisekedi looks inward. It must be said that the DRC is, according to international rankings, the 19th most corrupt country in the world.

Read: DRC: Félix Tshisekedi and his war on corruption

But tackling corruption, not only within the ranks of the opposition but also among his allies, is not necessarily easy for Tshisekedi, who has been criticized. But politically, the method is certainly effective: he succeeded in dividing and ruling better, and in establishing a sword of Damocles which now floats above many ruling heads. The president had to be a clever politician: when his own party was targeted, Tshisekedi turned to the opposition; and when the discontent started to be too present, the head of state decided to tackle corruption in the army. And it does not stop there: the President of the DRC has also initiated two more discreet procedures against two other sources of corruption in the country, within the Church and in the middle of organized crime.

Church interference, an iron fist in a velvet glove

Because the influence, too important, of the Church was also one of the major concerns of the Congolese president. The death of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo has partially but ended the influence of several Catholic priests in the DRC. During his lifetime, Monsengwo had succeeded in preventing any inspection of the Holy See within the Church of Kinshasa. This is no longer the case and the end of the impunity of the Church is a real asset for President Tshisekedi.

Read: DRC: The death of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya

A Vatican delegation did land in Kinshasa on Tuesday August 3. Several senior officials of the Pope officially came to visit the leaders of certain parishes in the country. They also came to discuss the attacks faced by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, heir to Laurent Monsengwo. The latter wishes to position himself as the natural political heir of the ex-strongman of the Catholic Church in the sub-region. But Ambongo made the mistake of interfering in the quagmire of the appointment of the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). Enough to provoke a crisis: the Vatican delegation would have met secretly, on August 4, with President Felix Tshisekedi. Rumors in the ranks of the Congolese faithful relate a possible departure of Ambongo. The political weight of the Church in the DRC would therefore be weaker, to the delight of the Congolese president.

Read: DRC: in the name of the Father, of the Son ... and of Politics

Fridolin Ambongo - “tâta Cardinal” as he is nicknamed - has, on the occasion of an ordination mass, decided to "forgive the attackers of his residence". Clearly, for Ambongo, politics takes precedence over religion. However, the apostolic nuncio has not yet moved to Lingwala, the stronghold of Ambongo, and she has not even met him yet. If the Cardinal persists in pursuing his political project, he still risks leaving feathers there.

The "re-education" of criminals

The third part on which Felix Tshisekedi focused aims to consolidate his power and launch a large series of social reforms. Indeed, it is the first time since 2014 that the state resumes the fight against the "kulunas". The gangsters, linked to the biggest mafia groups in the DRC, will be tried by special courts. For the sixth time, and despite NGO protests, the police launched a campaign against the Kuluna. A first wave led to the arrest of 375 notorious criminals. The police transferred them to a “rehabilitation” center in Haut-Lomami, where they “will learn a trade”. The Kinshasa police chief declared: “There is rural work, trades like carpentry, tailoring. They went to Kaniama Kasesepour to become useful to society ”.

Re-education camps for delinquents, you had to think about it. But the Minister of Human Rights, Fabrice Puela, is opposed to this procedure. He believes that the government “cannot afford these practices”. However, the police are still continuing the arrests to this day. Several dozen criminals and former criminals were arrested in all regions of the DRC on Friday and Saturday. The police are continuing this “re-education” operation with the agreement of the State. Anyway, the police insist that "the population is happy" to justify this extrajudicial procedure. Mid-term, Félix Tshisekedi seeks to secure a second five-year term. He is banking on his “clean-up” strategy to appeal to voters. While the Congolese president is focusing on international diplomacy, his government is trying to open the doors to re-election.

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