Martin Fayulu, DRC's fiery opposition presidential pick

2018-12-17 16:00
Martin Fayulu (File: AFP)

Martin Fayulu (File: AFP)

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A former oil executive turned politician, Martin Fayulu is a fiery orator who has emerged from relative obscurity in the ranks of the opposition to take a front seat in the race to become Democratic Republic of Congo's next president.

In the five weeks since he was named the unity candidate by several opposition parties, Fayulu's star has risen rapidly.

Despite being an outsider from a minor party, the 62-year-old has rapidly become one of three leading candidates tipped to take over from President Joseph Kabila after the December 23 elections.

But even before then, Fayulu made a name for himself as one of the most vociferous critics of Kabila's efforts to cling on to power after his mandate ended nearly two years ago.

Fiery and at times impulsive, Fayulu was routinely seen at the front of marches protesting against Kabila's bid to extend his rule beyond constitutional limits - which he finally abandoned in August.

During the demonstrations, Fayulu was arrested several times and he was once even struck in the head by a rubber bullet.

Although his Engagement for Citizenship and Development party holds just three seats in the National Assembly, Fayulu was thrust into the limelight on November 11 when he was named the consensus choice of opposition stalwarts meeting in Geneva.

His nomination was initially backed by six other opposition leaders, including two political heavyweights - ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and businessman Moise Katumbi, an exiled former provincial governor, both of whom were blocked from running.

But just days later, two of them reneged on the deal, with Felix Tshisekedi, who heads the UDPS - the country's oldest and biggest opposition party - launching a rival bid for the presidency.

The two men will go head-to-head to take on Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline Kabila loyalist and former interior minister, with the trio seen as frontrunners among 21 candidates.

 Security for the east 

Fayulu began his campaign to great fanfare in the eastern city of Beni, drawing huge crowds as he toured one of the country's most dangerous regions which has been ravaged by violence and an Ebola epidemic.

If elected, he has promised to move a huge army base from Kinshasa to the region to boost security.

Last week, Fayulu was in the southeastern province of Katanga, a Kabila stronghold, where the campaign heated up as five of his supporters were shot dead by police and he was barred from holding a rally in Lubumbashi, DRC's second city.

Fayulu also said he had been blocked from reaching Kindu, a Shadary stronghold, and the southern mining city of Kolwezi.

Over the past week, Kinshasa has ramped up the rhetoric against Fayulu, accusing him of trying to sabotage the vote over his implacable opposition to the use of touch-screen voting machines.

The authorities insist the technology will cut costs, prevent fraud and provide a faster tally, but the issue has sparked widespread public anger over fears the terminals could be used to fix the vote.

 Jobs and investment 

Born on November 21, 1956, in Kinshasa when it was still known as Leopoldville, Fayulu went on to do his university studies in France and the United States, later taking up a role with the US oil group which became Exxon Mobil.

Starting in 1984, he spent nearly two decades working for the oil giant in several African countries, first as an auditor and then as director general. He stepped down in 2003.

If elected, he has pledged to invest $126bn in the economy and create 20 million jobs over five years in a country which is rich in minerals and land but remains one of the world's poorest nations.

A Lingala speaker, Fayulu owns a hotel in Kinshasa located between Kabila's residence and the president's office.

Although his first foray into politics was during a national conference in 1991-92 that ended the single-party rule of longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, he was first elected to parliament in 2006.

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