RDCongo: Main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, dies at 84

Democratic Republic of Congo’s veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, has died in Brussels aged 84, his party said on Wednesday.

Tshisekedi stood up to Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country then known as Zaire, for more than three decades before Mobutu was overthrown by Rwanda, Uganda and other forces.

He was also the main civilian opponent of Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997, and his son, President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.

Tshisekedi was set to take the top post in a transitional council agreed in December under a deal to pave the way for Kabila to leave power in 2017 and refrain from running for a third term as president.

His death deprives the opposition of its principal figurehead as talks over implementation of the December accord falter. His son, Felix, is tipped to be named prime minister in a forthcoming power-sharing government.

“The information is confirmed. The (party) president is dead,” the spokesman for Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, Augustin Kabuya, told Reuters.

A pivotal figure in Congo, whose history has been marked by foreign intervention, civil war, coups and authoritarian rule, Tshisekedi’s stalwart activism meant he could draw huge crowds.

His death comes at another inflection point in the country’s history following Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December.

Source: Angola Press News Agency