Saturday, 13 April

John Apea: President Felix Tshisekedi deserves a second term

Feature Article
The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo

In 2018, I was one of the few English-speaking diplomats who had the opportunity to meet and interact with a man who few very knew of or believed will become the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite his lack of fluency in the English language at the time, he made every effort he could, to convey his dreams and vision for the DRC.  I am certain that very few people saw what I saw and felt what I felt that day. Most, if not all, probably saw a physically towering figure cut from the same DNA cloth as the great former Prime Minister and Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. I saw more. I saw a man of vision and passion, who rather than filling the shoes of his great father, brought his own pair of shoes. I saw a heir not only to Tshisekedi, but to Lumumba, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Selassie, Nasser, Senghor, Nyerere, Balewa and Mandela.

Over the past few years since that fateful day, I have had the fortune of meeting President Tshisekedi in Kinshasa. The glint in his eye is still there. The passion, will, and effort has actually increased, just as his fluency in the English language has. To his critics, President Tshisekedi might not have achieved much of what he preached. This I find surprising, unless they have taken the similarities of DRC to Wakanda out of context. With a land size comparable to that of Western Europe and bordered by nine sovereign nations, I always knew that DRC’s development was going to be far from easy, even if President Tshisekedi had the attributes of Black Panther minus the Vibranium suit.

President Felix Tshisekedi deserves a chance to conclude his mandate in this second term. The right performance indicators, though in their infancy, are all there : a new social contract between the citizenry and the state through the roll out of free primary education, universal health coverage for pregnant mothers, a renegotiation of pre- UDPS mining contracts that short changed the government, increased public sector reforms, an emphasis on conflict prevention and stabilization in the East of the country and a relatively improved economy with  a national budget that has grown by over 100% despite the pandemic.

On Wednesday, December 20, approximately 40 million voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo will affirm their rights as citizens of this great country by going to the poll to vote for their preferred presidential candidate. The outcome is an important one, not only for DRC but for the entire Africa. Before the horse bolts, the visionary master strategist President Felix Tshisekedi must be in the saddle.

Mr John Apea is the Head of Mission of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, the official business arm of the Commonwealth with a mandate from 56 countries to promote Trade, Investment and Enterprise. He is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.