When he was born on 13 June 1963 to mother Marthe and father Étienne Tshisekedi, who served as Prime Minister of Zaire in the 1990s, who could have guessed the role destiny had in store for him. Who would have guessed that he would preside over the very first democratic change of government in the country now called the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?
Etienne his father, daringly took on Mobutu publicly and that earned house arrest in his village in central Kasaï. In 1985 his mother Marthe, his brother and himself were able to move to Belgium.
Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo is who I am writing about. He is the man in the arena, and he is my profile of the week.
In October 2016, Tshisekedi became vice secretary general of the UDPS. On 31 March 2018, he was elected to lead the UDPS after the death of Etienne Tshisekedi, his father, on 1 February 2017. The same day, the UDPS nominated him for president in the December 2018.
On 10 January 2019,Tshisekedi was declared winner of the Presidential Elections following the December general elections. This marked the first time since the Congo gained independence in 1960 that an incumbent president peacefully transferred power to the opposition.
However, because of a very weak parliamentary majority in both houses of Parliament, Tshisekedi was forced into a coalition with the outgoing President Joseph Kabila who had and overwhelming majority in the National Assembly and the Senate. So not only did Kabila control the bureau of the Senate and the National Assembly but the Prime Minister was also someone he chose. In the government that was appointed after protracted negotiations, Tshisekedi could only name 23 ministers out of 65! With this configuration, Tshiskedi was deemed powerless and was reduced to management of Presidential Affairs some of which even required the endorsement of the Prime Minister.
Everyone saw this exercise of muscle by Kabila as guaranteeing his holding to power behind the scenes all the way to the next elections in 2023 when he would Kabila stage a suspected comeback. Tshisekedi chose the fight against corruption to be the corner stone of his Presidency. DRC is classified by all international institutions as one in which corruption was systemic. The vested interests began to tremble, the citizens were excited but in hurry and wanted immediate change. Everyone wanted immediate confrontation with Kabila but Tshisekedi was calm and steady and accepted the defiance of parliamentarians of Kabila’s party as well as those of the Prime Minister and some cabinet Ministers. He held steadily at the rudder, just as if somehow he listened to the whisper of the words of Theodore Roosevelt about the Man in the Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”