On Sunday, in a telephone interview from South Africa, Mr. Tshisekedi told Radio Lisanga Television (RLTV) that he was now the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo “because the majority of Congolese support him”. He said that President Kabila has been abandoned by even his most loyal supporters – such as Evariste Boshab, the Speaker of the National Assembly, and Mr. Mende, who is also the Minister of Communication and Media – and they were now supporting him.
Mr. Tshisekedi went on to say that, as the acting president, he was calling on his supporters to attack prisons and free members of his party who are being held for political reasons, if authorities do not release them by Tuesday. He added that prison guards should follow his orders and not stop his supporters.
Authorities suspended RLTV broadcasts Sunday evening pending an investigation. An official media watchdog said on Tuesday that the suspension will last 7 days.
On Monday, Mr. Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, confirmed that the statements were authentic. The Secretary General of the UDPS, Jacquemin Shabani, reiterated Mr. Tshisekedi’s ultimatum to the authorities during a press conference in Kinshasa.
Mr. Mende called Mr. Tshisekedi’s reasoning “erratic”. He said that if being popular means automatically becoming president, then popular Congolese musicians like Koffi Olomide and Papa Wemba should also declare themselves presidents. He said that his alleged support of Mr. Tshisekedi was pure fiction and called his statements “bizarre”.
“We are not preoccupied by these statements because it is convenient for us but because this is about the mental health of someone who is a monument in the history of this country and is now saying things that make people wonder,” Mr. Mende said.
He said that Mr. Tshisekedi, now 78 years old, must have realized that he will lose the November 28 presidential election, probably his last chance of ever becoming president, and is now turning to violence as a last recourse.