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Etienne Tshisekedi’s body arrives in Kinshasa for funeral2 minutes read

Felix Tshisekedi vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country

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Etienne Tshisekedi's body arrives in Kinshasa for funeral

The body of Etienne Tshisekedi, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s revered opposition leader and former prime minister, arrived in Kinshasa on Thursday, an emotional moment for the country after his son Felix became president earlier this year.

An opponent of authoritarianism in DRC, Tshisekedi died in Belgium in February 2017 at the age of 84, unable to witness his son’s victory in bitterly contested elections at the end of last year.

Felix Tshisekedi vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country – a goal that faced multiple obstacles under his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

After a last-minute delay to a scheduled Wednesday departure, a jet carrying the body arrived from Brussels in Kinshasa airport on Thursday evening.

His son Felix led a delegation at the airport, where a hearse decorated in the national colours waited, journalists at the scene said.

A white coffin draped in the national, flag was unloaded from the plane and escorted away by white-gloved attendants. Several thousand supporters and well-wishers waited outside the airport.

The programme of mourning includes a display of the body, a mass and rally on Friday at an 80,000-seat stadium in Kinshasa.

It will be followed by a funeral on Saturday in Nsele, on the eastern outskirts of the capital. Six African heads of state are expected, including the presidents of Angola, the neighbouring Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Togo, according to the DRC presidency.

Thorn in dictator’s side

Etienne Tshisekedi spent decades in politics but never reached the top job.

He served as interior minister under Mobutu Sese Seko, before joining the opposition, where he was a persistent thorn in the dictator’s side. 

He co-founded the UDPS in 1982 after a stint in prison and in the 1990s was appointed prime minister several times, each time falling out with Mobutu after a matter of months or even days.

In 1997, Mobutu was ousted in a rebellion led by Joseph Kabila’s father Laurent. Tshisekedi quickly became an opponent of the new regime, a stance that continued after Laurent Kabila’s assassination in 2001 and the rise of his son Joseph.

Tshisekedi refused to recognise Kabila’s legitimacy to the very last.

He boycotted the country’s elections in 2006 on the grounds of fraud, and was beaten in the 2011 ballot, which was tainted by massive irregularities. 

“His fight for democracy, freedom and dignity inspires us all,” opponent Moise Katumbi, Congolese politician and businessman, wrote in a message on Twitter.

Almost two years after his death, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in January 24 as president after elections that saw Kabila step down after 18 years in power.

It was the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

The handover however was marred by allegations of election rigging and by Kabila’s continued domination of politics after amassing extensive clout during his years in office.

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Central Africa Politics

Cleared ex-Congolese VP not entitled to compensation – ICC

Bemba’s lawyers had sought a total of nearly 69 million euros including compensation for the time he spent in jail and damages for legal costs.

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Leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo's political party Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) Jean-Pierre Bemba attends a joint press conference with DRCongo's opposition leaders on September 12, 2018 in Brussels. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Judges of the International Criminal Court have rejected a multimillion euro compensation claim by a former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba who was cleared of war crimes charges after spending a decade in the court’s custody.

Bemba filed a claim for compensation and damages after he was acquitted on appeal two years ago of war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been committed as a military commander of troops fighting in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

He originally was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Bemba’s lawyers sought a total of nearly 69 million euros including compensation for the time he spent in jail and damages for legal costs and losses in the value of assets frozen by the court including a Boeing 727 passenger jet.

The court said in a statement on Monday ruled that Bemba “failed to establish that he had suffered a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice” and therefore rejected his request for compensation for his time behind bars.

The ruling came even though judges acknowledged that “10 years is a significant amount of time to spend in custody, likely to result in personal suffering, which would trigger compensation” in many national legal systems.

The 34-page written ruling called for the court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, to urgently review whether it should impose limits on the length of trials or the amount of time suspects can be jailed before and during their cases.

Judges also dismissed Bemba’s request for damages to cover losses linked to his frozen assets, saying they didn’t have the power to rule on the claim.

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Central Africa Politics

Cameroonian separatists kill mayor in Mamfe

Ashu Prisley Ojong is one of the first senior elected official to be killed in the conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias.

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Late Ashu Prisley Ojong, Mayor of Mamfe killed by separatists in Cameroon. /Google

Cameroonian separatists have killed the mayor of a town in the restive Anglophone South West Region, state broadcaster CRTV and a senior military official confirmed on Sunday.

Ashu Prisley Ojong, mayor of Mamfe, around 500 km (300 miles) from the capital in the southwest of the country, was killed when his convoy came under gunfire from Anglophone separatist fighters, broadcaster CRTV said.

A senior military officer in the region, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that two soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Ashu Prisley Ojong is one of the first senior elected official to be killed in the conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias.

The insurgency began after the government cracked down violently on peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers in 2016 who complained of marginalization by the French-speaking majority

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Cameroon set for Feb. 9 parliamentary polls despite threat of opposition boycott

More than four dozen parties are taking part in the two elections, which should have taken place in 2017 but were twice postponed.

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A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Yaounde on September 30, 2013 for legislative and local polls set to shore up the strong parliamentary majority of the President's ruling party. AFP PHOTO / REINNIER KAZE (Photo by Reinnier KAZE / AFP)

Cameroon will on Sunday hold its first parliamentary and municipal elections in seven years despite an opposition boycott, terrorist attacks in the north and a bloody separatist struggle in the west.

Maurice Kamto, who mounted the strongest challenge to President Paul Biya’s rule in 2018, has kept his party out of the vote because of the violence.

Once again, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) formed by 86-year-old Biya looks well placed to sweep the polls.

Here is a snapshot:

Dominant party —

More than four dozen parties are taking part in the two elections, which should have taken place in 2017 but were twice postponed. 

The behemoth is the RDPC, which has a majority of 148 in the current 180-seat legislature. In many constituencies, its candidate is not even being challenged.

The leadership of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), historically the main party of English-speaking regions and the main opposition party in parliament with 18 lawmakers, finally decided to contest after threatening a boycott.

“In the last elections, the SDF lost ground. It needs to regain the lost seats,” said Stephane Akoa, a researcher at the Paul Ango Ela Foundation for geopolitics in Yaounde.

A third contestant to watch is the Cameroon Party for National Reconciliation (PCRN) headed by journalist Cabral Libii, 39, which hopes to knock the SDF into third place and become the main parliamentary opposition to Biya’s forces.

Kamto, winner of second place in the 2018 presidential poll, pulled his Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) out of the elections.

— Conflict —

Terrorist attacks in a region called the Far North as well as a separatist uprising in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have battered Cameroon’s image as a relatively stable zone in troubled central Africa.

On top of the 3,000 people estimated killed in the west according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

During the presidential poll of 2018, turnout in the Northwest and Southwest regions barely reached 10 percent.

The Far North is wracked by terrorist attacks by Boko Haram from neighbouring Nigeria and a splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

— Logistical problems —

Ensuring security in these troubled regions and enabling a vote among a total of almost one million displaced people will be very difficult, non-governmental organisations say.

Jailed for nine months after his supporters demonstrated against the official outcome of the presidential poll, Kamto says a fair election is impossible given the problems.

“To hold elections in Cameroon today… is to send the message that the population (of these regions) are not Cameroonians and thus bring about a de facto partition of the country,” he said.

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