Congolese sources say there’s a new deal to complete the burial arrangements for longtime political opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in February 2017 in Brussels but 14 months later still has never had his remains repatriated to Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Tshisekedi family, along with the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and President Joseph Kabila’s government, announced at the weekend a new nine-person commission to negotiate and finalize plans that would allow for a private plane to make the round-trip from Belgium at the government’s expense.
The elder Tshisekedi, whose son Felix now heads up the UDPS party, would then lie in state for a public mourning period at the Congolese parliament before a burial on family property on the outskirts of Kinshasa.
There is no date as yet for the return and memorial, but this agreement – if followed – would end the impasse over Tshisekedi’s final resting place. Previous delays included a failed agreement in August and one last May, just before his remains were due to arrive, when disagreement arose over which property should be a burial site. A similar dispute postponed the original March 11, 2017, date for the former UDPS leader’s return.
The death of the elder Tshisekedi proved a setback in resolving the political crisis in DR Congo. It came as the Rassemblement coalition pressured Kabila to begin implementation of a December 31 agreement, negotiated by the Roman Catholic bishops of CENCO, that created a power-sharing structure to move the nation forward in holding elections that have been postponed since December 2016.
Elections are now planned for this year, but Kabila’s refusal to step down after his constitutionally mandated second term sparked new waves of political violence among Congolese and criticism from the international community.
Image: Etienne Tshisekedi