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[OPINION] Tough task ahead for Felix Tshisekdi in DRC

Of the many brickbats justifiably being hurled at the Congo’s new President Felix Tshisekdi, daddy’s boy is not one of them.
Nepotism could easily spring to mind as the reason why the son of the veteran opposition figure finally gets the job his father managed to secure. This would be simplistic and frankly wrong.

Etienne Tshisekedi, who founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and opposed presidents Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila and Joseph Kabila, made no bones about what he saw as his son’s inexperience and inadequacies. He frequently said he was not about to hand his offspring a free ticket to his life’s work.

It was only after Etienne’s death in 2017 that Belgian-educated Felix was able to rise through the ranks to take the leadership of the UDPS. Felix is adamant that he will emulate his late father who he refers to as his master.

Family members say the son has none of the stubbornness and pride that hampered his father but enabled him to persevere through internal exile and imprisonment.

Felix is diplomatic, conciliatory and ready to listen to a variety of viewpoints.

This should stand in him on good stead running the Central African giant rich in minerals, including the coltan that keeps our smart phones and other electronic devices working.

For if there is anything that that abounds in this fecund country capable of feeding the entire continent, it is the variety of viewpoints.

His father’s misgivings about his inexperience notwithstanding, Felix has shown an adeptness in deal making that would the envy of his counterpart in the White House.

He quickly broke free of an opposition election pact when it became clear that he could do more beneficial business with the incumbent President Joseph Kabila who was about it stand down after 18 years in power but made no secret of medium-term plans to get back at the helm in 2023.

The deal they stitched up will give Tshisekedi the presidency, but he will be hamstrung by not controlling the legislature still firmly in the hands of the Kabila coalition with 337 of the 500 seats.

Indeed, Tshisikedi’s coalition has only 46 MPs. The second most powerful party in the legislature - with 102 seats - is the coalition of Martin Fayulu whose claim to have won the presidential election is backed by the Catholic Church, the European Union, France and Belgium.

So Tshisekedi will have his work cut out delivering on his campaign promises to restore the rule of law, eradicate the 'gangrene' of corruption and bring prosperity to the country reduced to poverty by decades of Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracy, Laurent Kabila’s venality and his son’s corruption.

Nevertheless, those countries and organisations that have put on record their serious doubts about the vote count recorded by the national electoral commission have now taken a pragmatic view.

They accept the sovereign decision of the Congolese administration and constitutional court, which upheld the election result, and are hoping Tshisekedi can do what he has promised.

The denouement is far from perfect. But which solutions in Africa are?

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish.