Democratic Republic of Congo’s new President Felix Tshisekedi who arrived Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning would meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to strengthen security and economic ties. They would also discuss the Ebola outbreak in the conflict-hit eastern Congo.
It was not immediately clear whether he will meet with President Donald Trump.
Mr Tshisekedi, who would be in Washington D.C. until Saturday April 6, would meet with Mr Pompeo and other senior cabinet officials in the Trump administration, a senior official told TODAY NEWS AFRICA on Wednesday.
Last month, Spokesman Robert Palladino told a briefing: “We share President Tshisekedi’s interest in developing a strong partnership between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo”.
He said the Ebola outbreak, with over 1000 cases now, especially in the eastern part of the country, according to Congo’s health ministry, would be discussed.
His visit comes after Washington imposed sanctions against senior officials for fraud and corruption in Congo’s presidential election.
Those sanctions have mainly targeted the country’s electoral commission chief and advisors.
Tshisekedi arrived at the Willard Intercontinental hotel in Washington D.C. at 1.36 a.m. on Wednesday, however the crowd of about 220 people that had gathered there for several hours to welcome him did not appear exhausted by the wait or impatient.
People came from all walks of life to welcome the new leader they believed would tackle gargantuan corruption in the country, deal with decades-long insecurity and rape cases, especially in the eastern part of the Congo, and unite a nation of over 80 million people in a country as vast as two third of Western Europe.
With the large crowd at the Willard hotel’s lobby and entrance, the secret service had to call for a back up of battle-ready policemen to control the surging but peaceful crowd.
Mr Tshisekedi, who was expected to come in through one entrance of the hotel, finally took the other entrance on the recommendation of the secret service.
The Congolese leader was ushered into an elevator leading to his hotel room immediately after he arrived. He made no comment and only briefly acknowledged greetings from the crowd.
Some of his countrymen felt slightly disappointed that they could not see him for more than five or ten seconds while others said he was probably exhausted from a long trip from West Africa to the American capital.
Marie-Stella Mbala Heiser was one of those who stayed up late to welcome President Tshisekedi on his first trip to the United States since he was sworn in late January.
And although a bit disappointed she could not properly see Mr Tshisekedi, greet or chat with him, she said she had high hopes he was the man Congo needed at the moment.
It is the Congolese leader’s first trip to the United States since he took over in January 2019 from Joseph Kabila. Mr Kabila ruled the central African nation for 18 years between 2001 and 2019.
On Saturday, April 6, President Tshisekedi will meet with the Congolese diaspora in the United States to discuss the “aftermath of the Congolese elections and immediate actions to be taken for the well-being of the Congolese people,” officials from the U.S branch of his political party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress, UDSP, said.
On Saturday, April 6, President Tshisekedi will meet with the Congolese diaspora in the United States
To hold in Washington DC, the gathering will equally seek to galvanize the diaspora to engage more and support the president in his efforts to develop the DRC.
Felix Tshisekedi is the son of veteran DRC opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who served thrice as the country’s Premier. He took over his father’s UDSP political party after the 84-year-old popular opposition leader passed on in 2017.
Underrated and described as a “political amateur”, unfit to step in his father’s shoes, Felix Tshisekedi successfully led a coalition that won the presidential election organized by Kabila, and was sworn in as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a peaceful transition.