Kamerhe unfurls new alliance

It says something about the fragmentation of Congolese politics that each candidates has to stitch together alliances of dozens of parties and political leaders. Kabila has the “Majorité Presidentielle,” Tshisekedi has the “Dynamique Tshisekedi Président” as well as Roger Lumbala’s “Soutien a Etienne Tshisekedi”. Today Vital Kamerhe announced his own alliance: “Alternance Vital Kamerhe.”

For those who had been expecting defections from Kabila’s camp, none were forthcoming. Nonetheless, Vital has been able to garner some important allies, most promimently: Ne Muanda Nsemi, the popular leader of the outlawed Bundu dia Kongo and Bundu dia Mayala groups; Charles Bofassa Njema, a popular opposition MP from Mbandaka; and Raphael Katebe Katato, a former leader of the RCD, brother of the governor of Katanga and rich businessman from Lubumbashi. These men bring with them either popularity (Nsemi, Bofassa) or money (Katebe).

Then there are people who bring with them their own individual weight, as well as symbolism that will rancor Kamerhe’s opponents. Mwenze Kongolo, who served as minister from both Joseph and Laurent Kabila; and Gaston Dindo and Mulumba Katshi, two former high-ranking leaders of Tshiskedi’s party. These individuals, however, bring little money or popular base with them to the alliance.

The presence of his two former allies is not the only thing that will irk Tshisekedi – Kamerhe also taunted him, referring to his reputation as eternal opponent: “I want to be clear. I do not want to dispute the leadership of the opposition with anybody. I will give the opposition to he who wants to keep it forever. My ambition is to become president of the Republic.” The gloves, apparently, have come off after months during which Kamerhe did not react to Tshisekedi’s cold-shouldering of his candidacy.

Finally, for those who were hoping for “Mopepe ya Sika” – new air, Kamerhe’s slogan – they were also liable to be disappointed. Kamerhe has now linked up with numerous figures tainted by corruption or other abuse of office. Katebe Katoto has been linked by the UN to the financing of several armed groups in the Kivus; Kongolo has also been named in UN reports, linked to extra-legal use of Congolese resources together with the Zimbabwean government. This is in addition to Kamerhe’s repeated calls for Jean-Pierre Bemba to be released from jail, and his coalition with the former UPC party of another ICC-indictee, Thomas Lubanga.