He has been absent from his country for almost three months and maintains the silence that characterizes him. Former Congolese President Joseph Kabila nonetheless remains at the center of attention in the administration of his successor, Félix Tshisekedi. Since the end of March, the pressure against the “raïs”, as his supporters call him, has even increased. According to the authorities, he is the godfather “behind the war raging in the east of the country”.

The accusations against him take the form of insinuations, as when General Christian Tshiwewe, chief of staff of the armed forces, warned the soldiers and police officers under his orders on Monday April 15 during a “moral talk » at the Kokolo camp in Kinshasa. “There are among us those who are corrupt and incited to treason, sometimes by our own politicians […] This is serious! “, he launched from the podium, without mentioning the name of the former president. Before the parade, several officers – whose identity and number remain unknown – were arrested more than 2,000 km away, in Lubumbashi, the capital of Haut-Katanga and stronghold of Joseph Kabila.

Others, like Augustin Kabuya, the secretary general of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS, the ruling party), are more direct in their accusations. On March 30 and April 9, in front of activists, he accused Joseph Kabila of supporting the March 23 Movement (M23), an armed group supported by the Rwandan army which controls part of the North province. Kivu, in the east of the country. “Kabila left on the sly without leaving a trace,” he said, suggesting “turbulence” was to be feared.

Invisible

At the end of January, the man who led the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for more than seventeen years was in South Africa, where he validated the subject of his doctoral thesis at the University of Johannesburg. A month later, he was in Namibia for the funeral of President Hage Geingob. He then disappeared from radar.

If Joseph Kabila remains invisible, his name resurfaced on April 5 in a video released to the press by the Congolese army. Military intelligence interrogates Eric Nkuba Shebandu, arrested in Tanzania in early January. This advisor to Corneille Nangaa, president of the electoral commission from 2015 to 2021 and now head of the Congo River Alliance (AFC), states in particular that Joseph Kabila and John Numbi, the former inspector general of police, are in link with this new political-military platform of which the M23 is part.

Faced with these accusations, Joseph Kabila’s entourage immediately denied any connection with the AFC. “The secret services are radicalizing and arresting the ex-president’s collaborators to try to discourage possible future membership,” reacts a former deputy of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), Joseph Kabila’s movement, under condition of anonymity.

In fact, three PPRD executives joined the AFC and appeared in March alongside its leaders during a meeting in Kiwandja, a town in North Kivu controlled by the M23. “But the AFC also counts in its ranks former members of the UDPS and the party of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the current minister of defense. This clearly illustrates the complexity of political alliances and shows the extent to which caution is necessary before concluding on specific support for Kabila,” analyzes Trésor Kibangula, director of the political pillar of Ebuteli, a Congolese research institute.

“Psychosis”

Joseph Kabila, a former resistance fighter who came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, has never made the slightest comment on the situation in the east of the country, despite the resurgence of the M23, end of 2021, and the creation of the AFC in December 2023. His ouster from the Congolese political scene two after the election of Félix Tshisekedi, in 2019, and despite the political coalition (FFC-Cach) that the two men had formed , has made his speaking engagements as rare as his appearances.

“A psychosis has taken hold of the clan in power, which fears a violent reaction from Kabila because of the blows he received,” judges the former PPRD deputy. However, the ex-president said nothing when his twin sister and former MP, Jaynet Kabila, was questioned for several hours by the intelligence services on March 15. Nor when soldiers searched the premises of the Laurent-Désiré-Kabila foundation two days earlier. Nor even when they “vandalized” and “subtracted,” according to a press release from the foundation, the vehicle that had transported his father’s body for his funeral.

“His silence, which has long worked in his favor, now seems to baffle even his most loyal lieutenants, who expected him to play a more active role in the opposition or to influence more visibly political and economic, or even security, decisions”, estimates Trésor Kibangula, while the PPRD, which boycotted the legislative elections at the end of 2023, no longer has a representative in the National Assembly.

It is only the wife of the former president, Olive Lembe Kabila, who still speaks in public. Visiting Goma, the capital of North Kivu, in early April, the former first lady prayed, from a camp for people displaced by the conflict between the M23, Rwanda and the DRC, for her husband to return to business.