SUPPORTERS OF Etienne Tshisekedi, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s veteran opposition leader, have gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, to express their shock at his death.
A prominent opponent of successive leaders, he was due to head a transitional council under a deal for President Joseph Kabila to step down.
The 84-year-old died in Belgium where he had gone last week for medical checks.
The information minister said he would be given a state funeral.
Mr Tshisekedi returned to Kinshasa last July to a hero’s welcome after two years in Brussels for medical treatment.
Correspondents say his death comes at a sensitive time for DR Congo. There were fierce clashes last year when it was announced that President Kabila would stay in power until April 2018.
The death of Etienne Tshisekedi might jeopardise the transitional deal and has left the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party without its emblematic leader.
He was nicknamed the “Sphinx of Limete”, because the mythological creature reflected his long career and many political guises. Limete is his home neighbourhood in the capital.
In 2014, he left Kinshasa for Brussels to receive treatment and back home it was his son, Felix Tshisekede, who gradually took over the reins of the party and emerged as a natural successor to his father. Not only does he resemble his father but he seems to have the same determination and charisma.
He has become such an important opposition personality that the Rassemblement coalition of opposition parties, which has signed the power-sharing deal with the government, has designated him as the potential next prime minister.
Witnesses say as word of his death spread in Kinshasa on Wednesday evening, clashes broke out between a small group of his supporters and police, who fired teargas.
Mourners who gathered at his son’s house in Kinshasa said they were concerned about the future. BBC