DR Congo election: Martin Fayulu’s ambition to be president

A campaign poster for the former oil executive shows him conscientiously rolling up his sleeves, ready to run the country.

Underneath, a slogan promises that he wants to create “a dignified and prosperous Congo”.

But Mr Fayulu, 62, faces stiff competition in the shape of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the ruling party candidate and a loyalist of outgoing President Joseph Kabila, and Felix Tshisekedi, another opposition leader.

He was a surprise choice when he was unveiled as the Lamuka coalition’s presidential candidate last month.

Opposed Mobutu

Despite becoming a full-time politician in 2006, and serving as an MP, he is mostly known as a businessman.

His critics say this will count heavily against him in the election, and they doubt he will advance the interests of poor people if he wins.

Mr Fayulu’s involvement in politics started during the Sovereign National Conference in 1991 that brought together delegates from different regions, political parties, civil society organisations and traditional leaders to campaign for multi-party democracy.

The ruler at the time, Mobutu Sese Seko, allowed the conference to take place after coming under domestic and foreign pressure to end one-party rule. But he ignored the call for multi-party democracy, and was eventually forced out of power in 1997.

Mr Fayulu’s transition from business to politics was complete in 2006 when he was elected an MP.

‘Vote could split’

Before that, he had had a two-decade-long career, starting in 1984, with US oil giant Exxon Mobil, taking up positions in several African states.

His final posting was in Ethiopia where he was the company’s director general.

In March 2009, Mr Fayulu helped launch the Commitment for Citizenship and Development political party and was appointed its leader. He is currently one of the party’s three MPs, which suggests that it does not command huge support among voters.

Days after Mr Fayulu was unveiled as the opposition’s unity candidate, two members of the alliance, Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, backed out of the agreement.

 

They said their supporters opposed Mr Fayulu.

Now, Mr Tshisekedi, the son of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in 2017, is also a presidential candidate, and his presence on the ballot threatens to split the opposition vote.

Grazed by bullet

But Mr Fayulu is confident that he has enough support to win. He has two heavyweight backers, former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi, the former governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province, who were both barred by the electoral commission from running.

“Congolese call me [the] people’s soldier,” Mr Fayulu told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme, brushing off a question that he is unknown.

The businessman has been involved in protests against the extension of Mr Kabila’s time in power. The president’s second and final term in office should have ended in 2016 and delays in holding the presidential election led to suspicions that he was trying to cling to power.

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