Surprise Candidate to Lead Congo Opposition Presidency Bid

(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition leaders named Martin Fayulu as their surprise joint presidential candidate for next month’s election.

The opposition had been expected to select from two better-known leaders: Felix Tshisekedi, head of the biggest opposition party, or Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in a 2011 vote. Fayulu will face President Joseph Kabila’s anointed successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in the Dec. 23 ballot.

Surprise Candidate to Lead Congo Opposition Presidency Bid

The choice was announced at a briefing Sunday in Geneva by Freddy Matungulu, a fellow presidential candidate and leader of the Congo Na Biso party. Fayulu is one of seven opposition heads who last month agreed to field a single candidate to maximize their chances of defeating Shadary.

”The people need leaders who will bring them development, who will bring them prosperity and we seven here, we are committed to achieving this work,” Fayulu said at the briefing.

Congo is the world’s main source of cobalt and Africa’s biggest copper producer. It hasn’t had a peaceful or democratic transfer of power since it gained independence in 1960.

Fayulu, 61, is a lawmaker and the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party. He finished fourth with 8 percent in an opinion poll published late last month by New York University’s Congo Research Group. Tshisekedi topped the survey with 36 percent, while Kamerhe and Shadary were second and third respectively with 17 percent and 16 percent.

In addition to Fayulu, Tshisekedi, Kamerhe and Matungulu -- who successfully registered in August to run for the presidency -- three other leaders participated in the Swiss negotiations. Among them were opposition heavyweights Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was disqualified by the electoral commission, and Moise Katumbi, who is in exile and was prevented from returning home to file his candidacy.

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