Congolese sources say that the long dispute over repatriation and burial arrangements for Etienne Tshisekedi, who died February 1 in Brussels, may soon come to an end.
A spokesman for the Tshisekedi family confirmed Friday to AFP that the family, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party and the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to terms in June that would bring the late Tshisekedi home as early as September.
A document detailing the signed agreement, widely shared on social media, calls for a private plane to transport the body from Brussels to Kinshasa. The government agreed to pay expenses for a funeral that includes state honors, and Tshisekedi will be interred at a site in N’sele, about 80 kilometers from the capital.
Tshisekedi’s body was to be repatriated in May, two months after the initial March 11 date was planned, but it was again delayed amid disputes over how Tshisekedi will be honored and where he will be buried. The UDPS and Rassemblement leader Felix Tshisekedi planned to bury the elder Tshisekedi at party headquarters in Kinshasa, but that agreement later unraveled, and no new date had been set. Meanwhile President Joseph Kabila’s government has remained concerned over political unrest that may escalate during Tshisekedi’s burial and ceremonies.
The death of the elder Tshisekedi proved a setback in resolving the political crisis in the DR Congo. It came as his Rassemblement coalition pressured Kabila to begin implementation of a December 31 agreement, negotiated by CENCO, that created a power-sharing structure to move the nation forward in holding elections postponed since December 2016.
Progress has stalled since Tshisekedi’s death and the internal UDPS divisions that followed. Kabila’s refusal to hold elections at the constitutionally mandated expiration of his second term has sparked new waves of political violence among Congolese.
Image: Etienne Tshisekedi