DRC opposition leader Tshisekedi's funeral in limbo amid rumpus

2017-02-10 14:30
Etienne Tshisekedi (File: AFP)

Etienne Tshisekedi (File: AFP)

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Kinshasa - Plans to bring home the body of longtime Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and give him a grand national funeral appear to have run aground, mired in a rumpus between his friends and foes.

Almost 10 days after his death at 84 in Brussels, there was no sign Thursday of his coffin's imminent return to Democratic Republic of Congo as had been hoped.

Last weekend, thousands of tearful members of Europe's Congolese diaspora turned out in Brussels to pay their last respects to Tshisekedi, who had a three-day funeral wake, his casket on display in a large hall made available by city authorities.

But at home, angry words and jockeying for power have snared efforts to give "Tshishi" or "Papa", as he was known, a fitting send-off.

On Tuesday, government spokesman Lambert Mende promised on national television to let his casket lie in state in parliament and offered air tickets to Brussels to members of his party and to his friends.

But his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party angrily rejected the tickets the following day and threw down a two-pronged challenge before agreeing to set a time and place for the funeral.

Large national union 

Firstly it demanded the government build a mausoleum for Tshisekedi in the heart of the capital.

Secondly - setting a far tougher condition - it demanded the funeral costs be covered by an as yet non-existent government.

An agreement to create a government incorporating an opposition coalition recently put together by Tshisekedi is part of a power-sharing deal agreed on New Year's Eve to avoid fresh political violence in the large central African country.

It enables President Joseph Kabila, whose second and final mandate expired in December, to remain in office until elections are held late this year.

It also provided for Tshisekedi to head a transition council while a new government of "large national union" was put in place.

Mende said the government saw no problem in building a mausoleum for the late opposition chief - but not in the city centre.

But according to the Catholic Church, which is overseeing the enactment of the December 31 deal, the talks to set up a new government can only start after Tshisekedi's funeral.

Read more on:    etienne tshisekedi  |  drc  |  central africa

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