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Etienne Tshisekedi, 84, Congo’s main opposition leader

Tshisekedi worked on deal to get President Kabila

Tshisekedi worked on deal to get President Kabila to step down. Credit: AP / John bompengo

KINSHASA, Congo — Congo’s opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi, who pushed for democratic reforms for decades in the vast Central African nation throughout dictatorship and civil war, has died, his political party said late Wednesday. He was 84.

His death comes at a politically fragile moment for Congo, where he was heavily involved in the recent deal to get President Joseph Kabila to agree to step down by the end of this year after months of deadly protests. The parties signed a deal that has yet to be implemented.

Tshisekedi had been seeking medical treatment in Belgium, Congo’s former colonizer. A statement released late Wednesday by party spokesman Augustin Kabuya did not state a cause of death. Radio France Internationale said he died from a pulmonary embolism.

Tshisekedi formed the country’s first opposition party in 1982 — the Union for Democracy and Social Progress or UDPS — in an effort to combat the longtime dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Despite serving as the country’s most iconic opposition figure, he never managed to ascend to Congo’s highest office though he once declared himself president after the 2011 election was marred by allegations of vote rigging by the ruling party.— AP

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