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DRC: Tshisekedi supporters gather in Kinshasa for first campaign rally

Supporters of the AABG political group gather to attendthe first campaign rally of the DRC's president Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on Nov. 19, 2023.   -  
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ARSENE MPIANA/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

A rainy Sunday (Nov. 19) did not deter supporters of President Felix Tshisekedi from making their way to a rally in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic republic of Congo.

'Fatshi' as he is known at home kicked off his official campaign for the December 20 elections. He is vying against 25 presidential hopefuls.

"We've come to listen to him, because for us he's already got a second term, that's for sure. In 2024, Fatshi (ed: Tshisekedi) will have a second term, that's for sure," Blanchard said.

Alphonsive, a supporter of the ruling UDPS doubled down: "I've come to give him a standing ovation, rain or shine, there's only Felix Tshisekedi, no one else."

The Stade des Martyrs where Felix Tshisekedi spoke to hundreds of supporters was reportedly packed. 

Tshisekedi, says a return to calm in the war-torn east is his priority, along with improving services and the economy, building roads and respecting freedom of speech and of the press.

Opposition leaders have called his record disastrous.

On December 20, some 44 million registered voters will vote in general elections.

In total there are a record 25,832 candidates for the legislative elections, 44,110 for provincial bodies and 31,234 for municipal councils, according to the Electoral Commission (Ceni), which faces the struggle of organising voting across the country's 2.3 million square kilometres and limited infrastructure.

"There is a political will to stick to the electoral calendar, but there are doubts about the technical feasibility," said Tresor Kibangula, a political analyst at the Ebuteli research institute.

A 'waste of time'

The east of the country has been racked by fighting for three decades, and violence is surging again after the M23 group, supported by Rwanda, recently occupied much of Nord Kivu province.

The fighting will prevent normal voting in two territories in the province, but the whole process would be threatened if rebels take the provincial capital Goma.

"M23 will not take Goma," insisted Tshisekedi.

His record is mixed, according to analysts, and disastrous according to the opposition, which is already warning of massive fraud.

In addition to Fayulu, who claims he was robbed of victory in 2018, the main opposition candidates are Moise Katumbi, former governor of the Katanga mining region; Doctor Denis Mukwege, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work with victims of sexual violence; and two former prime ministers.

Since there is only one round of voting, some observers says it makes it easy for the incumbent to win. However, representatives of five leading opposition groups met this week in South Africa to study the possibility of proposing a single candidate.

A coalition has been formed and a common platform adopted, but Fayulu has yet to adhere.

Voters are mixed about the value of voting.

Eunice, a 20-year-old geography student, says she is "happy" to be voting for the first time.

Ezechiel, a 24-year-old studying management IT, is discouraged. "There will be fraud, like in 2018," he said. "I am not going to waste my time."

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