KINSHASA – The Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to hold presidential elections on December 20, in which 25 candidates, including the incumbent, are running for the highest office in the impoverished central African nation.
Here are the main DR Congo contenders:
President Felix Tshisekedi took power in 2019 after winning a disputed election which another candidate, Martin Fayulu, insists he won.
Originally from the DRC’s central Kasai region, Tshisekedi is the head of the UDPS party, founded by his late father — once an iconic opposition politician.
Felix Tshisekedi has raised his profile on the international stage, making frequent trips abroad, in contrast to his reclusive predecessor Joseph Kabila.
He also pledged to improve the lives of the poor, fight corruption and pacify the conflict-torn eastern DRC.
Critics say the 60-year-old has failed to live up to his promises. But with the opposition divided, Tshisekedi is considered the favourite to win in December.
Moise Katumbi, 58, is a wealthy businessman and owner of Congolese football club TP Mazembe, based in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi.
He is a former governor of ex-Katanga province, the mineral-rich economic motor of the DRC, where he was born.
Katumbi is a target for critics who charge that he is not fully Congolese, however, because his father was Italian. One such critic unsuccessfully petitioned the constitutional court to prevent Katumbi from standing for election.
As leader of the Together for the Republic party, Katumbi argues that his track record developing Katanga as provincial governor qualifies him for the presidency.
Martin Fayulu, 66, is a former oil executive who leads the Ecide party. He wants payback.
For the past five years, his supporters have referred to him as the “president-elect”, arguing that he was the true winner of the 2018 election.
Fayulu has said he believes the election in December will be fraudulent and it was initially unclear whether he would run. He announced his candidacy on September 30.
A renowned surgical gynaecologist, Denis Mukwege was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his effort to end sexual violence.
The 68-year-old has long been a trenchant government critic, and has repeatedly urged justice for the victims of brutal conflict in the east.
But while reputed in medical and humanitarian circles for his work with rape victims, Mukwege has no solid political base.
On October 2, he ended months of speculation about his political ambitions when he announced his candidacy, denouncing the “corrupt and predatory practices” that keep most Congolese people poor.
Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal pastor and hails from the eastern province of South Kivu, where he runs a hospital.
AUGUSTIN MATATA PONYO
Augustin Matata Ponyo, 59, served as a finance minister and prime minister under ex-president Joseph Kabila.
As the leader of the LGD party, he has faced legal troubles over allegedly embezzling public funds, a charge he denies. A judge has postponed hearings in his corruption case to March 18.
On Sunday, Matata said he was dropping out of the race after talks by five leading opposition groups held in South Africa, aimed at agreeing on a single candidate.
Adolphe Muzito is also a former stalwart of ex-president Kabila. He served, at various stages, as his prime minister, finance minister and budget minister.
The 66-year-old leads the Nouvel Elan (“Fresh Start”) party, which was once in coalition with Martin Fayulu’s party.
A lawyer and MP from Kasai-Central province, Delly Sesanga, 53, is the leader of the Envol party.
He backed Tshisekedi for president in 2018 but has since become a bitter critic, denouncing broken promises and his “inability to straighten the country out”.
- this article first appeared on AFP