Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Sphinx Speaks to Colette

Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo's major opposition figure for 30 years, seems confident he is on the brink of winning the election and finally achieving his life-long ambition. He has given an interview with Colette Braeckman, which she titles "The Man with Nerves of Steel."  I've provided a loose translation, with Google's assistance.

There is a festive, confident mood at the old opposition leader's house, with ambassadors and international observers queuing up under a canopy to speak to Tshisekedi. Boys run around making V for victory signs. Wearing a blue shirt, his face relaxed, Tshisekedi, wedged behind his small office, seems not to have changed a bit. No doubts, no concerns, seem to worry him. Four other presidential candidates, including Kengo and Kamerhe, have sought to annul the poll because of irregularities (the vote is still ongoing in Katanga!), but he is careful not to undermine the elections themselves and expresses his commitment to accept the results, "absolutely, especially since we already know in advance the direction ... We attach crucial importance to these elections ... Despite all the provocations that we experienced, our activists are calm and confident ..." To that we might also add vigilant: Tshisekedi points out that it has been the voters themselves who detected irregularities and reacted accordingly. "I insist: Kabila's mandate expires on December 6 and we cannot afford to give it another hour ..."

Confident of victory, Tshisekedi predicts that next Tuesday, "nothing will happen, everyone will accept the results, including Kabila himself ... Do not listen to rumors running around ..." Having accepted the validity the election because he believes it will give him the victory, (thus making it harder for him to complain if he loses), Tshisekedi wants to distinguish himself from other candidates.  He rejected the idea of making any agreement with them before the election, and still thinks its premature to talk of coalitions: "It is a nonsense. How could you, before the election, require the post of Prime Minister without even knowing how many members you would have in Parliament? In politics, there is no gift, you must know how much each weighs ... "

Tshisekedi speaks derisively of the other candidates, allowing that  "they have won one or two votes, from their wives, their children ... The votes Kamerhe won in Kivu, are also of no concern to me. The day before yesterday, he came here and I refused to receive him ... He means nothing to me ... As for Kengo wa Dondo, he is one of those men I have fought against my whole life ... "

As for the National Assembly, "Ya Tshitshi" is optimistic: "I did everything for all members ... As we do not have much money, I made myself the campaign and asked voters to trust my deputies. I have no doubt that the future prime minister will come out of the ranks of my party ... "

Remembering the 80's, where he engaged the fight against the late President Mobutu, Tshisekedi the old fighter back to the meaning of these elections, "despite irregularities, I always felt it had to go and is the end of thirty years of fighting, this date marks the beginning of a prosperous Congo, a country emerging soon ... It is also the end of the mandate of Kabila ... “

Tshisekedi rejects responsibility for any of the violence that occurred during the election. Of his ten militants  killed [over the weekend], he says, "When a people must be free of fear to ensure its self-defense, that's what you call violence ..."  He has the keen eye, incisive repartee, of someone who's health seems fully restored.  He assures us, "I have an iron will, and the resulting health ..."

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