Former Exxon Manager Leads Congo Opposition's Bid for Presidency - EcoFinBiz Blog

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Former Exxon Manager Leads Congo Opposition's Bid for Presidency

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(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition leaders chose Martin Fayulu as their surprise presidential candidate for next month’s election.

The opposition had been expected to select from two better-known politicians: Felix Tshisekedi, head of the biggest opposition party, or Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in the last vote in 2011. Fayulu will face President Joseph Kabila’s anointed successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in the Dec. 23 race to lead the world’s largest cobalt producer.

Fayulu, who spent almost two decades at Exxon Mobil Corp., was chosen because he’s the least-polarizing of all the opposition candidates, said Mvemba Dizolele, a Congolese lecturer at the Washington D.C.-based John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

“He’s a consensus choice to be sure,” Dizolele said by phone. Fayulu has “a solid track record of fighting for democratic change” dating back to the days of Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator who ruled Congo from 1965 to 1997, Dizolele said.

Fayulu, 61, has earned a reputation for being at the front line of anti-government rallies that in recent years have often been violently dispersed. He was injured when a teargas canister hit him on the head in September 2016 during protests in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, in which the United Nations said security forces killed more than 50 people.

Opinion Poll

An opinion poll published last month by New York University’s Congo Research Group placed Fayulu fourth with 8 percent support. He’s one of seven opposition heads who last month agreed to field a single candidate to maximize their chances of defeating Shadary. Tshisekedi topped the survey with 36 percent, while Kamerhe and Shadary were second and third respectively with 17 percent and 16 percent.

Fayulu held various managerial positions at Exxon, including in the U.S., Congo, France and Nigeria, according to a biography published on his personal website. He’s the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, which won just three of the National Assembly’s 500 seats seven years ago.

Congo has been ruled by Kabila since 2001. The central African nation, one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt despite abundant natural resources including copper, gold and oil, hasn’t had a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

Click here to read a related article about Congo’s election

“The people need leaders who will bring them development, who will bring them prosperity and we seven here, we are committed to achieving this work so that Congo ceases being the laughing stock of the world,” Fayulu said at a briefing Sunday in Geneva, where his candidacy was announced.

In addition to Fayulu, Tshisekedi, Kamerhe and fellow opposition party boss Freddy Matungulu -- who all successfully registered in August to run for the presidency -- three other leaders participated in three days of talks in Switzerland to discuss a joint candidate. Among them were opposition heavyweights Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was disqualified by the electoral commission, and Moise Katumbi, who is in exile and was prevented from returning home to file his candidacy.

The leaders created a coalition named Lamuka in order “to assure the victory” of the opposition in the election, according to a statement they signed on Sunday.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Clowes in Kinshasa at wclowes@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net, Paul Richardson, Michael Gunn

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