The former Prime Minister (2012-2016) of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Augustin Matata Ponyo, one of the candidates in the presidential elections on December 20, announced his withdrawal in favor of Moïse Katumbi.
The announcement, released in a recording published on his Facebook account, follows negotiations held from 13 to 17 November, in South Africa, between emissaries of five opposition candidates, including Matata Katumbi, former governor of the Minas Gerais province of Katanga.
During the consultations, delegates from four of them, according to the organizing NGOs, defined criteria to identify the “ideal common candidate”, capable of giving the opposition the best chance against the outgoing President, Félix Tshisekedi, in power since January 2019 and candidate to a second five-year term.
“To maximize votes and, above all, prevent the maneuver of power”, which he accuses of preparing an “electoral fraud”, Matata believes, according to the message, that “the urgency of a single opposition candidacy is essential”.
“Thus, following the consultations held in Pretoria, Moïse Katumbi emerges as the candidate who can lead the opposition group represented by four major parties and political groupings”, reads the message. “On the recommendation, and in accordance with the party’s decision, I would like to announce my withdrawal from the December 2023 presidential race, in favor of Moïse Katumbi”, declares the former Prime Minister.
He added that the people’s deep aspiration must transcend “our personal egos and ambitions.” In this sense, he invited “the other two participants in the Pretoria work, as well as all other candidates concerned about the future of the DRC and its people, to join Moïse Katumbi in ensuring a certain victory in the December 20 elections.
After this withdrawal, 25 candidates, including the outgoing President, are running in the presidential elections scheduled for December 20th in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), simultaneously with the legislative, provincial and municipal elections.
At the forefront, presenting themselves as one of the main candidates, are: Félix Tshisekedi, 60 years old, who became President five years ago, after a victory over the opponent Martin Fayulu. Moïse Katumbi, 58 years old, is a wealthy businessman, head of the renowned Lubumbashi (southeast) football club Tout Puissant Mazembe and former governor (2007-2015) of the mining province of Katanga, the economic heart of the country. Martin Fayulu, 67 years old, leader of the Ecidé (Commitment to Citizenship and Development) party. This former executive of a major oil company wants his revenge. Denis Mukwege, 68, gynecologist, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for his work with raped women, is a long-time critic of power and continues to demand justice for victims of armed violence in his country.
Adolphe Muzito, 66 years old, is former Prime Minister (2008-2012) of Joseph Kabila, also former Budget Minister and former Finance Inspector, leader of the “Nouvel Elan” party, a former ally of Martin Fayulu, in Lamuka coalition.
Delly Sesanga, 53 years old, lawyer, deputy for Luiza (Kasaï Central) and leader of the Envol party (Juntos de Voluntários para o Desenvolvimento da DRC), supported the candidacy of Félix Tshisekedi in 2018, of whom he became a virulent critic, denouncing the “political inability to restore the country”.
The head of a European Union election mission in the DRC announced on Tuesday it was sending 42 initial observers to the country ahead of next month’s vote. Malin Bjork, the Swedish MEP who heads the mission, told reporters in Kinshasa that 42 observers arrived on November 17 and will soon be deployed to 17 of the DRC’s 26 provinces.
“They will be our eyes and ears on the ground,” said Bjork, who also called for freedom of expression and assembly to be respected and for all violence or hateful words to be rejected.
Agreement signed for the withdrawal of MONUSCO
After almost two decades in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) signed an agreement to remove the 15,000 peacekeepers.
Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula and the head of MONUSCO initialed the agreements on Tuesday. Speaking on national television, Lutundula said that the agreement marks the end of a collaboration “that proved its limits in a context of permanent war, without the much-desired peace being restored.” Eastern Congo is in the grip of a decades-long conflict waged by dozens of armed groups, some supported by DRC’s neighbors. In September, President Félix Tshisekedi called for an accelerated withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, who have frequently caused tensions among the population. At the end of August, a crackdown by Congolese troops on demonstrations against the UN resulted in almost 50 deaths.
The force, made up of troops from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda, has been deployed since the end of 2022 to help end the fighting. The Government alleges “lack of satisfactory results on the ground”. There is no timeline for the withdrawal of MONUSCO forces in Tuesday’s announcement, with observers saying any acceleration is unlikely before the end of the current election cycle.
At least seven people died in an exchange of fire on Monday night in North Kivu, eastern DRC, where fighting pitted the army against M23 rebels, several local sources said. The circumstances of the shooting, which occurred in the territory of Nyiragongo, a camp for displaced people north of the provincial capital, Goma, are unclear.
“The perpetrators have not been identified,” said a hospital source, reporting seven dead – four civilians and three soldiers – and eleven injured. According to the territory’s police administrator, Colonel Patrick Iduma, “indigenous” militiamen fired shots “to scare the displaced people who occupied their land”.
The province of North Kivu has been in the grip of a rebellion for two years, led by the M23 (“March 23 Movement”) and supported by Rwanda, according to many sources.