Sunday, February 5, 2017 3:40 pm
By Rhulani Thembi Siweya
His recent death in Brussels at the age of 84 has yet again reminded the continent that the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC) is due for elections. His political life started when he came into prominence as anadviser to the first Prime Minister of the then Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. He is a man who hand in hand with Mobutu took part in the second
coup which led to the impeachment of President Kasavubu. Etienne in 1967 played a role in amending the Congolese constitution.
During President Mobutu’s rule he held various prominent government positions and eventually had a political fallout with him. A man who until 1980 served in the central commette of the Popular Movement of the Revolution.
Post his fallout with Mobutu Etienne went on to form his own political party called Union for Democracy and Social Progress ( UDPS) aimed at countering the ruling party. Based on his political convictions and disagreement with President Laurent Kabila who had just overthrew Mobuto Tshisekedi he was amongst the 250 listed citizens barred from contesting in the then elections. He was arrested several times. This is an opposition leader who contested Joseph Kabila and lost.
While alive before his mortal departure he had been a leading vocal voice of the opposition. A man who was seen to be holding the opposition together. A man who refused to be micro managed by the seating leadership of the day in the DRC.
With him gone, much aspersion is thrown that perhaps Presiednt Joseph Kabila might undermine the signed Comprehensive Political Accord, which amongst other things talks to elections taking place in 2017. This is alleged because there is a believe that the rest of the smaller opposition parties are controlled by President Kabila. Bringing fear that since he is gone opposition might be weakened.
As he rest, he has indeed served his people. He has throughout his life fought a course he believed was correct. In all generations from independence he has been there, advancing interests of his people. His political party has a huge task of carrying the baton and representing the voice of the opposition. Uniting the opposition and upholding the accord.
Multiparty democracies are important in any state. What they must guard against is to allow opposition to be swallowed with little or no voice. If the rumor or intention exist that President Kabila might want to use this death to extend his term, then this will be unfortunate.
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked and an NEC member of the ANCYL, she writes in her personal capacity.