The African Union (AU) has expressed sorrow at the death of Etienne Tshisekedi, main opposition chief in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The 84-year-old veteran politician died on Wednesday evening at age 84 in Belgium’s capital Brussels.
The AU extended condolences to the Tshisekedi family, to members of his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and to the people and Government of the DRC.
The statement released a day after the death described Tshisekedi as ‘‘towering personality of Congolese politics.’‘
It is important for the memory of Etienne Tshisekedi and for the future of the DRC that the hopes aroused by this agreement will quickly materialize for a democratic transition at the end of 2017.
It added that the best way to honor his legacy and his long fight for democracy in the DRC is to fully implement the Conference Épiscopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) facilitated Agreement signed by the Congolese stakeholders on 31 December 2016.
Statement by French Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault
‘‘I bow to the memory of Etienne Tshisekedi, a man of peace and progress, who has struggled all his life for democracy and freedom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Etienne Tshisekedi leaves an indelible imprint in the history of his country. His ultimate commitment to the respect of the Constitution contributed to the signing of the agreement of December 31, 2016.
“It is important for the memory of Etienne Tshisekedi and for the future of the DRC that the hopes aroused by this agreement will quickly materialize for a democratic transition at the end of 2017.
“To his family, his political friends and the Congolese people, I present the sincere condolences of France.”
Brief about the Late Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba
Tshisekedi founded the UDPS in 1984 , and has been at the forefront of opposition politics for more than three decades.
He was a minister under the late Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime and on a number of occasions served as prime minister in the 90s. He however did not remain in the position after clashing with the autocratic leader, who was eventually forced out in 1997.
Tshisekedi was the main opponent of former president Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997, and his son, President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since 2001.
The opposition heavyweight left the DRC for Belgium on January 24 to receive medical treatment.
Tshisekedi had been in Kinshasa since mid last year and participated in the country’s national dialogue to avert crisis due to the election stalemate.
He was expected to head a transitional body, known as the Implementation Council, until elections are held at the end of year. He was considered as one of the main key advocates of democracy in the country.
Etienne Tshisekedi was the runner-up in the November 2011 presidential election which was marked by voter irregularities.