Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has been officially nominated as a candidate for the presidential election scheduled for December 20 this year, ruling out any contest within his ruling coalition but not necessarily ending the competition.
The coalition, known in French as L'Union Sacrée de la Nation (Sacred Union of the Nation), held its first congress in Kinshasa on Sunday, attended by a number of prominent figures.
They included allies of President Félix Tshisekedi such as Modeste Bahati, President of the Senate, Christophe Mboso, President of the National Assembly, Sama Lukonde, Prime Minister, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of defence.
All dressed in white, they pledged their support for the candidacy of Félix Tshisekedi.
"All the members of the Sacred Union of the Nation resolutely undertake to support the candidacy of the President of the Republic, thus designated and invested, before, during and after his election on 20 December 2023," they declared.
This declaration was written as article 2 of the congress resolution, which was read out by André Mbata, the first vice-president of the National Assembly.
"We will send a signal, both nationally and internationally, of our unity, determination and commitment to these elections on 20 December 2023," said Prime Minister Sama Lukonde.
In his speech, Christophe Mboso explained why the Sacred Union had chosen Tshisekedi. Mboso praised "the visible achievements of President Félix Tshisekedi".
With less than 100 days to go before the general elections in the DRC, almost all Congolese are preparing for the event. But President Tshisekedi may not be celebrating just yet. While the coalition presidency signals a united front, he faces challenges in eastern DRC, where ongoing violence has undermined his promises to stabilise the country.
In North Kivu, several sources reported heavy fighting on Sunday. Bertrand Bisimwa, leader of the M23 rebels, accused the Congolese army (FARDC) of starting the fighting in Kirolwire, Kibarizo, Busumba and Kirumbu, villages in North Kivu, in the east of the DRC.
The two sides had maintained a relative ceasefire for the past seven months under a deal brokered by regional leaders in a programme known as the Luanda process.
But tensions have always remained, especially since President Tshisekedi considers the M23 to be terrorists.
Other sources in North Kivu claim that fighting has taken place between the Wazalendo self-defence group and the M23. Just over a week ago, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula ordered the rebels to withdraw from the areas they had occupied so that displaced people could return to their villages and register to vote in the forthcoming elections.
"All the areas still occupied by the M23 rebels will soon be liberated," promised Major General Bruno Mpezo Mbele, commander of the 34th military region, on Saturday. The interim governor of North Kivu, Major General Peter Chririmwami, declared that "the army will repel the enemy".