Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tshisekedi delivers firebrand interview, provokes controversy

In an interview broadcast Sunday evening on Radio Lisanga TV, a station close to the opposition, Etienne Tshisekedi stirred controversy and radicalized the tone of the election campaign.

I have transcribed and translated what I could hear of the interview in the below clip. Speaking from South Africa, where he has reportedly been since the beginning of the election campaign ten days ago, he denied that the Congolese government had refused his plane a landing permission, thereby contradicting his own party spokesman.

He went on to say that Kabila is all alone, that only his wife is still with him. Most controversially, he self-proclaimed himself president, saying that since the majority of the people was with him, from today on he was the president of the Congo.

In another part of the interview that I haven't heard, he allegedly said: "I call on supporters (combattants) everywhere in the country to go to the prisons, to break down the doors and to liberate my supporters." He continued: ""I'm giving a 48-hour deadline for all opposition prisoners to be released. Past that deadline, I will ask the population to attack prisons and free them, and as president, I'm ordering prison guards not to resist."

He was apparently referring to his supporters who had been arrested during recent demonstrations. This prompted the government to shut down the TV station, which belongs to the opposition MP and former rebel leader Roger Lumbala.

The UDPS has confirmed that the interview was authentic. Later, on the BBC Swahili service, I heard a UDPS representative explaining the interview, saying that, "It is normal for a candidate to boast like this."Roger Lumbala himself argued that Tshisekedi was referring to Kabila's slogan "With Rais [Kabila's nickname]...100% certain," saying that it we he and not Kabila who was sure to win.

This interview has already caused controversy on the internet and in the streets of Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi has been criticized for spending a third of the short election month abroad seeking funds and transport in South Africa, while his competitors campaign at home. It may be that this absence and the lack of funds prompted him to radicalize his message and to openly seek confrontation. Will his supporters take to the streets tomorrow? Will the government take further legal action against the UDPS or RLTV?

Here is the speech:


"Those who say that Kabila prevented my plane from landing do not understand the situation. Kabila no longer represents anyone, but his wife. People like Boshab [president of the national assembly] and Mende [minister of information], who started elsewhere and talk with both sides of the mouth, say one thing during the day and another at night, have now abandoned him. He is alone with his wife, as you can see. So I say we need not wait for the elections. In a democracy, power rests with the popular majority. Since the majority of the Congolese people is with Tshisekedi and trusts Tshisekedi, from now on, I am the Head of State. Regarding the elections, my message is simple as I have said. Starting today, it’s the Congolese people who are the authority of the country. It’s Tshisekedi Etienne, no one else. If Mr. Ngoy Mulunda does not listen to what we are saying, he will be weeping in his native language come December 6 [the date election results are announced]."


andrea.trevisan said...

Thanks for sharing this Jason. In Katanga several tensions and clashes have been reported between UDPS and PPRD and Okapi reports of this serious accidents this Monday morning.

I wonder if this attack has been fuelled by the interview.

On the fact that Kabila is all alone ... it seems last weekend in Bukavu he held a very successful meeting.

By the way ... I think it has been a poor move by Tshisekedi; my impression is that he doesn't have much grip on the campaign and is quite desperate if calls at such a confrontation against Kabila.

Let's wait and see.

Rich said...

Too early to call this...

From what I'm hearing and what I know, I cannot see Congolese, subscribing for a new supply in long standing violence or armed confrontation.

Many udps followers are still confused with events in their party for the past few days. Some cannot even believe their leader can do what he's just done.

Affaire a suivre...


Anonymous said...

Well, Rich, that might be true among well-educated folks like yourself but the unemployed guy in the street? the struggling farmer in the village?

It's clear to most observers of the Congo that desperation can lead to incredible violence and bloodshed.

This is pretty clear and has been so for the last 50 years- to say the least of the last 15.

Where I agree is this call by Etienne essential vapidness. Can he count on people to rise up? Will they listen? Will the regime respond harshly if they do?

While this is not a hard and fast call to arms (indeed, if it is, its fairly weak), Etienne has put his credibility on the line (the integrity train left long ago unfortunately) with this call.

I seriously doubt he has the pull, comfortable as he is in his SA hotel room, to begin a wave of demonstrations and uprisings.

That doesn't mean he's not serious or their will be no violence. But what it does mean is UDPS has now raised the specter of violence and given this country's history we should all take this rather seriously.

Anonymous said...

There is no Confirmation of Tshisekedi Declaration if it's the real Tshisekedi voice or a fake one, may be a voice imitation as we saw a cartoon on Congo mikili last few days imitating Tshisekedi voice with a chegue. It's may be a hoax never know!. As far as I am concern, this Monday evening Congo mikili Journalist in south Africa denied the claim about Tshisekedi declaration and add that he's last interview with Tshisekedi was cut off into different pieces paste and change and broadcast all day long on Tele 50, Kabila’s TV channel. Surprisingly the same declaration was broadcast on RLTV Opposition TV Chanel of Roger Lumbala, that justified Their TV Signal being shut down by the government because of it. Very Confusing,in the other end, UDPS announced for Wednesday 09/11/2011 Tshisekedi In Kisangani. This Let see what next!!!
Sunga Congo

Anonymous said...

That's really helpful, Sunga.

Yes, Etienne is now in Kisangani according to Congolese friends who live there.

So it begins...


Anand said...

Well, that certainly is unfortunate rhetoric. Examination of Tshisekedi's motivations aside, the largest issue seems to be the potential for further destablization if these elections don't go well. I just have no idea where we will be by say mid December. This whole election cycle is making me worry about the rest of the country for a change (as opposed to hyper focusing on the east). I don't have a lot to add to the discussion. Just all of you all who are in Congo, stay safe.

joe b said...

I think the comments you've translated could be interpreted as borderline rhetorical bravado, though proclaiming oneself president before an election goes a bit far. Confirming the ultimatum regarding attacks on prisons is quite important, as that would clearly be incitement.
This seems designed to provoke a heavy-handed response from the regime: one that can then be wielded as a political tool. The call to action on its own may not provoke a mass response. But if he is, indeed, back in Kisangani, his potential arrest on treason charges could galvanize support even among those normally not given to activism.
It's a shrewd and cynical strategy, but no real surprise from a man who -- while never showing the slightest faith in any electoral process -- is entirely convinced that the presidency is rightfully his.

Tshimanga John Metzel said...

The Congo Educational Council agrees entirely with an analysis of this so-called interview sent by a distinguished Congolese scholar:

The interview in question here is "misinformation":

"In the alleged interview,[Tshisekedi]makes radical statements like claiming himself already President of the Congo, and other outrageous statements of that nature.

In analyzing the document there's no way Tshisekedi would make such outrageous statements in sharp contrast to the principles he has always stood for. It is safe to say that these are voice manipulations that have been doctored, using internet."

As an aspiring 'responsible scholar' Stearns should undertake due diligence before impugning a figure of Dr. Tshisekedi's stature. This so-called interview is clearly a 'bricolage' of a random clip of one of Tshisekedi's recent interviews with large voice-over portions which anyone who knows Dr. Tshisekedi personally can instantly tell are fake.

Since BBC, VOA, and 'Engwete' seem to be following your lead you should do the responsible thing and immediately retract this irresponsible blog.

Tshimanga John Metzel
Associate for US Constituency

Jason Stearns said...

@Sunga Congo/Tshimanga: I myself was skeptical when I first heard the interview, but the UDPS itself confirmed that the interview was authentic. ( AFP, Reuters and Bloomberg have also reported the interview as the real thing, and I heard a UDPS spokesperson on BBC Swahili service confirming it, as well.

None of these media followed my lead, as my blog published the interview after they came out with their stories.

Rich said...

Jason -

Just to add on what you have just said, Roger Lumbala the owner of RTLTV (the media outlet responsible for broadcasting thisekedi's controversial interview) confirmed and explained word by word a chunk of what he referred to as tshisekedi's call.

On a more personal note, it is a sad pity to see that so many of us are still so far from understanding tshisekedi's not only sterile; but also, unreliable political career... Maybe time will, one day, tell us more on what I mean.

Just an opinion and not demanding to be treated with outrage...


Ewing said...

It`s unbelieveble. if Tshisekedi have done such interview he must understand and show us clearly what he wants. peace or fire in this country. Jason have done so much thing to help people when mutebusi was in fight with mbuza mabe, he knows how the local population for many years had suffered. if congolese politicians do not see that today ``enough is enough`` and want again confrontation between them, so we have to give another message to congolese people `` is not a time of fight, is a time of elections and let`s go in peace to those elections.
but tshisekedi have to know that ``les combattants``, all of them live in europe and think they have power in DRC. What they are doing in europe is not democracy and for democracy. They want democracy and do not tolerate opposition. they want democracy and do not want to share ideas. if ``he``tshisekedi have to hear them and do such interview clearly he`s losing his power and credibility to be a good candidate. surely he`s falling. every day i see in him some one who will never accept to loose those elections and will do every thing to send or ask people to demonstrate.


Anonymous said...

Jason I do not dispute your post, as I know your posts are well documented and reliable sources no doubt about it. I try to analyse the usefulness of this declaration on Tshisekedi political future, I have also red your different links with BBC and other, and I Thank you for the link. I would like to remind people that BBC broadcast to the world, recently the first image of crowd in green square (Libya) failing to Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) with India Flag waving in people hands. And later on we find out BBC mislead his viewers by using India protest as Libyan people celebrating in Green square, but later apologised for the mistake, I don’t dispute the reliability of those big news corporation . But When watching theses 3 videos (I know you can perfectly translate this) then I realised this may be a mistake!!! My question would be why Tshisekedi will use such strong rhetoric, for what political gain!!! Thirty year of no political violence in opposition and a sudden break. Again if it’s real then this will be a tragedy for his Political image, he’s was trying to build these last few weeks in Johannesburg for his presidential campaign. watch my first video (all) but, from Minute 16:38 a question from Congo mikili journalist about the raison behind his visit in that Hotel(intercontinental), Tshisekedi reply this “to build his Campaign strategy and political image” do you think this would be a lied? or does he has an hidden agenda??? In conclusion the beginning of his campaign in Kisangani may give to us more answers to our questions. Let see what next.
Please watch theses link and free your you to analyse.

Thank May God Bless the Congo
Sunga Congo

Anand said...

In response to the question of, "Why would Tshisekedi say these things now?" maybe the answer isn't that confounding. The elections are drawing near, with contention from the opposition that Kabila is manipulating and possibly rigging things in his favor. Didn't Tshisekedi contend that the 2006 elections were influenced by external parties? Certainly, from his perspective, things seem bleak this time around as well. The opposition isn't unified behind him. His political time is running short. Sometimes, under these circumstances, politicians let their emotions take hold. Parts of their truer inner sentiment combine with frustration to lead to the type of outburst we have heard from him. (Just look at some of the stuff coming from the Republican field for president). Maybe he regrets it. Maybe his comments give some deeper insight into his mindset. I don't know enough about Tshisekedi to say either way. I do understand the concern that comments and recordings can be fabricated. The potential double crossing and innuendo can lead to any conclusion. Are UDPS higher-ups discontent with Tshisekedi, so they are verifying false comments? Probably not, but in the realm of Congolese politics, anything seems possible. But if these comments have been vetted by several sources, and we can see that Tshisekedi is a politician in serious danger of losing his probably final bid for the presidency, we can understand where such rhetoric might come from.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am slightly surprised that people are so surprised, or our skeptical, of this latest event in the Congo.

It has been obvious for some time now the Congolese political system encourages a mix of desperation, predation, and repression.

This has been the case in the pre-colonial area’s tribal kingdoms, the colonial era, Mobutu’s, and both Kabila’s regimes.

Indeed, for the last several months now, the ruling elite- out of desperation and a desire to further consolidate power- has:

- engaged in likely fraudulent and secretive mining deals
- scrapped the decentralization ministry
- hastily amended the Constitution to forgoe a run-off
- hobbled the election commission works
- refuses to publish all the details of its mining contracts and the China deal
- knocked off a few journalists and intimidates the rest

So, in response to all this we now find the great “hero” of this system seemingly willing to compromise it further for his own ends and, after a valient attempt to highlight the rank abuse of the electoral commission, resort to encouraging violence- an act of clear desperation.

Again, why is this all surprising and shocking for people? Because its Etienne?

Really, I am not being facetious or pendantic here but the reactions on this post are pretty odd for people with even the slightest understanding of the political system of the DRC.

Until the Congolese elite and members of the international community decide that a functioning state and locally based institutions that encourage vigorous, broadly based debate is in their interests this type of desperation, personality politics, and acts of violence near an election will be the order of the day. This current political system would corrupt Gandhi or Mandela folks.

I am pretty certain we will be here again, in varying degrees, in 2016 and likely 2021. Systemic political change of a DEEP nature must occur before we get to the type of elections we see in Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, etc.

This doesn’t mean the Congo is about to disintegrate but it does mean we shouldn’t be surprised with events like this.

This too shall pass......

May the good Lord continue to bless this long suffering people.


Anonymous said...

We must always check and double check the source of information and the tendency thereof.So to conclude this we have seen President kabila already spending more thaan quarter of his life in power.Isn't what we need to see change?even if Tshisekedi not the alternative but Kabila has done what he sould have let embrasse Real DEMOCRACY.Change is always good though difficult to embrasse.WE NEED TO MOVE ON.

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