More than two years after Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has died in Brussels, he will be repatriated to Kinshasa tonight. On February 1, 2017, the legendary Congolese politician died in Uccle at the age of 84. All the while he was laid out in a crematorium in Ixelles.
A military ceremony will be held tonight at Melsbroek, to bring a final tribute to the politician, in the presence of family and loved ones. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders will also attend the ceremony.
Tomorrow the private plane with the body of Tshisekedi onboard would arrive at the international airport of Kinshasa. Son Felix, among others, will be waiting for the plane there. The funeral will follow on Saturday.
Former Congolese President Joseph Kabila was reluctant to face a funeral of Tshisekedi, one of his greatest political opponents, in Congo. He feared an unseen congregation of opposition supporters, an event he could miss as a toothache in pre-electoral times.
At the beginning of this year, Tshisekedi’s son Felix was declared the winner of the presidential election at the end of last year. Since Tshisekedi junior came to power, difficult relations with Belgium have gradually improved and it has also become possible to organize the repatriation of Etienne Tshisekedi.
After landing, a funeral procession will traverse Kinshasa all day long, up to a mortuary in the city center. Along the way, the procession will also pass through Tshisekedi’s house in the eastern Limete district. On Friday the body will be taken in procession to the largest stadium in the city, where 80,000 people can attend a mass and a vigil.
The official ceremony and a big solemn mass will follow on Saturday at the same stadium. The archbishop of Kinshasa will lead the mass. The body is then buried Saturday afternoon in a monument in the suburb of N’sele.
The program of the ceremonies also shows that Tshisekedi will be named national hero, just like former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and Laurent-Desire Kabila.
Tshisekedi was the louse in the fur of the Congolese rulers for years, although he started his political career on the side of former dictator Mobutu. In the early 1980s, he founded the first opposition party against Mobutu, the Union pour la Democracy and le Progres Social (UDPS) with a few supporters. He continued to lead the UDPS to his death.
Over the years he ended up in jail a few times, but in the turbulent 90s, he was also appointed prime minister several times. He also opposed father and son Kabila. In both 2006 and 2011, he faced Joseph Kabila but lost twice. After his defeat in 2011, he insisted that he was the rightful president.
Heads of State
Six African heads of state are expected in Kinshasa for the funeral: they include Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Congo-Brazzaville), Joao Lourenço (Angola) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda). At Tshisekedi’s oath in January, only Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was present.
The Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and the French President Emmanuel Macron would also have received an invitation for the ceremony, but none of them has already responded to that invitation.