Dictatorship Remarks Earn Congo President Ire of Kabila’s Allies

(Bloomberg) -- Political allies of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s former leader rebuked President Felix Tshisekedi for criticizing what he said was the “dictatorial” and corrupt system he inherited on taking office.

The criticisms, made during a U.S. trip, form the latest flashpoint in the uneasy partnership between Joseph Kabila, who stepped down after 18 years, and the former opposition leader who succeeded him in January following disputed elections that marked Congo’s first-ever transfer of power via the ballot box. Kabila’s coalition secured majorities in the national and provincial parliaments, prompting the two mens’ alliances to agree on governing together.

Tshisekedi returned to Congo on Monday from Washington, where he told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations on April 4 he’d come to the U.S. “to untangle the dictatorial system which was in place.” The president told another meeting two days later that Congo’s endemic corruption had “discouraged serious investors.”

Kabila’s Common Front for Congo, or FCC, “regrets the content of certain militant remarks made by the head of state soliciting the support of a foreign power” to refashion the system he inherited, it said in a statement late Monday. Describing the accusations as “baseless” and “unfounded,” it said Kabila “anchored” democracy by organizing the country’s first democratic elections in 2006 and oversaw nearly two decades of economic growth.

Awaiting Government

Rival opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who finished second in the Dec. 30 poll, claims that Tshisekedi and Kabila struck a secret deal to deprive him of his rightful victory -- an accusation both camps deny. Kabila’s preferred successor came a distant third.

More than two months after his inauguration as the leader of the vast, mineral-rich central African country, the president is yet to appoint a government. The FCC and Tshisekedi’s alliance, known as CACH, agreed on March 7 to “facilitate the quick establishment of a functioning government reflecting the will of the people,” but negotiations are ongoing.

Several “worrying tendencies” should be quickly corrected by the coalition government, including the nomination of a prime minister, the FCC said. Congo’s constitution specifies the premier must be from the ranks of the parliamentary majority.

A previous dispute was defused in late March when Tshisekedi revoked a decision to suspend the installation of senators elected two weeks beforehand after the FCC won the most seats. After reviewing the Attorney General’s preliminary investigation into widespread allegations of vote-buying by the provincial parliamentarians who elect the upper chamber of parliament, the president allowed senators to take their seats.

The FCC-CACH coalition “is not a secret and is not a crime either,” Tshisekedi told reporters at the end of his U.S. visit. “Unfortunately when I was elected president, I didn’t obtain a clean majority for the national legislature.” CACH controls 10 percent of seats in the National Assembly.

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