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An awkward grip: Kabila (L) at Tshisekedi's inauguration in Jan. 2019. Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty

Félix Tshisekedi has been on a good run.

Driving the news: The president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took over the chairmanship of the African Union this week. Days earlier, he won a major victory in an ongoing power struggle with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, by convincing a large swath of parliament to leave Kabila's camp and vote out the speaker, a Kabila ally.

The backstory: Tshisekedi is something of an accidental president. He was declared the winner of the DRC’s December 2018 elections despite independent observers believing another candidate, Martin Fayulu, was the clear winner.

  • Most believed Kabila — who spent 18 years in office and effectively controlled the electoral commission — struck a backroom deal to elevate Tshisekedi while ensuring he'd retain a large slice of power after stepping down.
  • That compact has eroded over time. On Jan. 27, it appeared to crumble entirely.

How it happened: One MP told the Economist that “money circulated” as his fellow parliamentarians were convinced to switch sides, but that they'd been offered even more money to stay put.

  • Many seem to base their calculus on the fact that Tshisekedi has the power to dole out patronage to allies and investigate foes for corruption — making him a better friend to have.
  • Tshisekedi is becoming a more powerful president than many expected, but he has not yet proved a particularly effective one in terms of delivering promised economic and political reforms, per the Economist.

Worth noting: The U.S. and European countries — happy to see the back of Kabila and hoping for some stability — largely ignored the fact that the 2018 election was rigged in Tshisekedi's favor.

Go deeper

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

Updated 25 mins ago - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Senate Dems receive max donations from Nord Stream 2 lobbyist

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A major Democratic donor and Nord Stream 2 lobbyist has made maximum campaign contributions this year to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and vulnerable Senate Democrats, campaign finance records show.

Why it matters: If pressure from the White House to vote against reimposing sanctions on the Russia-backed natural gas pipeline weren't enough, Democrats who back such legislation also will be at loggerheads with one of their party's top fundraisers.