Democratic Republic of Congo’s Catholic Bishops through their National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) have expressed their condolences after the death of DRC’s opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi who died in Brussels, Wednesday, at the age of 84 years. Tshisekedi’s political party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) confirmed his death.
"This death is a blow to the entire Congolese people, who mourn a historical leader; a defender of democracy in DR Congo, and especially for all those who dedicate themselves to working for the rule of law in our country, "said Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, President of CENCO.
CENCO said Tshisekedi had left an enormous political vacuum at a crucial time.
"His death leaves a political vacuum at this critical juncture in the history of our country," Bishop Utembi Tapa said. He added, "His (Tshisekedi’s) commitment and his personal involvement in resolving the current political crisis are to be seen as a political testament bequeathed to all defenders of democracy," the prelate emphasised. The Bishop expressed hope that out of the current political impasse, a "new Congo [clothed] in love, justice and peace" would emerge.
According to Reuters, the death of Tshisekedi leaves opponents of DRC President Joseph Kabila seriously weakened in their bid to force Kabila to quit power after he defied constitutional term limits to stay on last year.
Despite his 84 years and failing health, Tshisekedi known as "the Sphinx" for his sparse but profound statements, remained the undisputed leader of the opposition to Kabila. He was expected to head a transitional council to oversee Kabila's exit by the end of this year under a deal struck on 31December 2016.
As hundreds of mourners congregated in front of a hastily-erected, candlelit shrine at his house in the Limete district of the capital, Kinshasa, on Thursday, many said they had little faith that anyone else could carry on his legacy.