The parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday elected a new speaker in a move that cements President Felix Tshisekedi’s control of the house without elevating a potential rival for the next election.
The election of Christophe Mboso, the oldest member of parliament, is the latest in a string of setbacks for Joseph Kabila, who stepped down as president in 2018 but continued to wield influence through his party’s parliamentary majority.
Since December, when a close Kabila ally was toppled as parliamentary speaker and replaced by Mboso on an interim basis, Tshisekhedi has succeeded in forming a new coalition with an overwhelming majority, and he is now poised to appoint a new government free of Kabila loyalists.
Crucially, Mboso does not represent a threat to Tshisekedi’s hopes for re-election in 2023.
He switched allegiance from Kabila to Tshisekedi in December, and is expected to be more helpful to his agenda, which includes addressing armed violence in the mineral-rich east and reforming the judiciary.
Tshisekhedi also wants to replace the board of the Central Bank, hoping to unlock much-needed funding from the International Monetary Fund and other donors, and to get parliamentary approval of his preferred candidate to head the electoral commission.
Mboso’s long career includes several ministerial stints in the 1990s under the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
“Mboso is somebody who is independent and who is at the end of their political life,” said David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Pretoria.
“This is the kind of individual that Tshisekedi needs at this moment because he has nothing to lose and everything to give.”