By Pearl Matibe in Washington DC
U.S. President Joseph Biden’s high-ranking delegation travelled for the swearing-in of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Tshisekedi for his second term. The U.S. team, led by International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) CEO Scott Nathan, signals Washington’s desire to expand its strategic partnership with Kinshasa.
The inauguration ceremony took place on Saturday, 20 January 2024, at Kinshasa’s Martyrs Stadium. Mr. Tshisekedi won re-election in December with over 73% of the vote, according to the DRC’s election commission, Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI). This is a margin of victory that his critics and supporters will be watching to see if he will pursue much-needed economic and political reforms in Africa’s largest copper producer and one of its most populous countries.
Yet Tshisekedi faces no easy task. As U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller noted, jubilation over relatively peaceful elections is tempered by reports of significant fraud, infrastructure breakdowns, and an opposition boycott in parts of the country that challenge the vote’s legitimacy.
Nonetheless, in an 11 January statement Miller stated Washington is eager to “expand its partnership with the DRC government and work with Congolese people across the nation to advance our mutual interests.” Mr. Tshisekedi will depend on Western support to achieve his agenda.
The American delegation, including U.S. Ambassador to the DRC Lucy Tamlyn, top diplomats, and development officials: Molly Phee, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Monde Muyangwa, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Chidi Blyden, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation, signals Mr. Biden’s intent to bolster ties with Kinshasa.
This senior-level delegation of individuals who are overseeing Africa policy, and are leaders of major development agencies, underscores Washington’s commitment to expanding strategic ties with the Congolese people. While lacking the economic brand of influence of China, now the DRC’s largest trading partner, Washington wields unrivaled political influence.
Mr. Tshisekedi understands that American engagement is indispensable for realizing his pledge to create jobs, reduce poverty, and curb long-running instability in mineral-rich eastern provinces. With Congo at the heart of central Africa, Saturday’s inauguration kicks off Tshisekedi’s next chapter – and could mark a new phase for robust U.S.-DRC relations.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on U.S. foreign policy, and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe