Tshisekedi’s presidential campaign shifts focus to Rwanda

On 21 November 2023 at 08:14

On Sunday, November 19, President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) launched his campaign to secure another term in office. Rather than focusing on his objectives and plans during his speech at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa (home stadium for the Congolese football national team), he prominently addressed the relationship with Rwanda.

On December 20, more than 44 million people in the DRC registered to vote for the president, members of parliament, and provincial leaders. A total of 26 candidates vied for the position of Head of State, with 25,832 members of parliament and 44,110 provincial leaders, along with 31,234 regional leaders, also in contention.

Tshisekedi reassured his supporters that nothing detrimental would occur under his leadership, pledging, "I will never stop loving them, and I will give my life for you." Distinguishing himself from other candidates, he cautioned the people against listening to promises that lack substance, emphasizing the need to scrutinize the track record of those in power.

Notably, President Paul Kagame was repeatedly referenced in Tshisekedi’s statements, with a clear warning to the citizens to consider Rwanda as an adversary and to maintain a distance. Tshisekedi emphatically declared that any association with Rwanda is now out of the question. He revealed that, upon assuming office, he initially collaborated with Rwanda to address violence and insecurity in Eastern Congo, aiming for the mutual development of both countries. However, he claimed that Rwanda betrayed this collaboration.

Tshisekedi asserted that he will no longer engage in dialogue with Rwanda and President Kagame. In the earlier days of his presidency, the relationship between Tshisekedi and Rwanda was seemingly flawless, marked by joint efforts to combat the FDLR terrorist group in Eastern Congo. However, he now insists on severing ties with Rwanda, despite past camaraderie.

The current strained relationship stands in stark contrast to previous displays of support, such as President Kagame’s attendance at Tshisekedi’s father’s funeral, where he was warmly welcomed in Kinshasa.

Previously, when President Kagame visited Goma to aid those affected by the Nyiragongo volcano eruption, Tshisekedi expressed gratitude to his "brother" for the support.

The rift is further underscored by the stark shift from describing Kagame as a ’brother and trusted partner’ to outright rejection of any future collaboration. President Kagame’s attempts to explain the root of problems in the East of the DRC appear to have fallen on deaf ears, as Tshisekedi’s character has markedly changed over time.