A messy transition: DRC

A messy transition: DRC

After much delay, the body of Congo’s opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi – who died last month in Brussels – was

Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

After much delay, the body of Congo’s opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi – who died last month in Brussels – was to be returned to Kinshasa on Saturday. But earlier this week, his family announced the trip would be postponed, accusing the government of blocking the move.

This is unsurprising: Mr Tshisekedi and his opposition coalition had been a thorn in the side of President Joseph Kabila. After Kabila refused to cede power late last year, Tshisekedi instructed his followers to take to the streets, threatening unrest and a backslide into civil conflict. Congolese remember such horrors well – the country fought a bloody five-year war from 1998 to 2003, which ultimately caused the death of more than 5 million people.

But late last year, crisis was averted when a power transition agreement was reached between the late Etienne Tshisekedi and President Kabila. Mr Tshisekedi was to lead that transition; his death throws those plans into turmoil.

Kabila will exploit the confusion in his attempts to hang onto power for an unconstitutional third term. Expect further civil unrest in the coming months as opposition figures jockey for influence and try and enforce the transition agreement.