Seven opposition leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday picked little-known lawmaker Martin Fayulu as their joint candidate for key and long-delayed presidential elections at the end of December when longstanding ruler Joseph Kabila stands down.
Fayulu, the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, will stand against Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister backed by Kabila in the December 23 vote, a statement said after three days of gruelling talks in Geneva.
The opposition leaders meeting in the Swiss city included two heavyweights in former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and ex-provincial governor Moise Katumbi.
Both have been barred from standing in the election.
Three others besides the 61-year-old Fayulu had been authorised to contest the poll: Felix Tshisekedi, head of the long-standing UDPS opposition party; Vital Kamerhe, a former National Assembly speaker; and former finance minister Freddy Matungulu.
“I’m sure we will succeed in making our country democratic, free and independent,” Fayulu told a news conference after the vote.
The elections are critical for the future of the DRC, a sprawling, mineral-rich country that has never experienced a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Kabila has been in power since 2001 at the helm of a regime with a reputation for corruption, incompetence and human rights abuses.
His second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he stayed in office thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution.
Months of speculation over his intentions, marked by protests that were repressed at a cost of dozens of lives, ended in August when he threw his weight behind Ramazani Shadary.
On October 25, opposition parties agreed in Johannesburg to name a joint candidate by November 15.