The president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Felix Tshisekedi, was sworn in for a second five-year term yesterday after sweeping elections that the opposition branded a sham while calling for protests.
With tensions simmering in the vast nation’s volatile eastern provinces, the 60-year-old president known as “Fatshi” picked Kinshasa’s 80,000-capacity Martyrs sports stadium for the ceremony.
The stands were packed well before midday with singing and dancing in full flow, with some 20 invited heads of African states in attendance.
“I solemnly defend the constitution and the laws of the maintain its independence and the integrity of its territory,” the re-elected president declared before the judges of the Constitutional Court.
Following that Tshisekedi received greetings from the traditional chiefs of the 26 provinces of the immense Central African country.
In a speech, Tshisekedi acknowledged the nation’s hopes of better living conditions and economic opportunities.
Around 62% of DR Congo’s 100mn people live on less than a dollar a day.
“I am aware of your expectations,” he said. “A goal of this new five-year term is to create more jobs.”
He also promised “a profound restructuring of our security and defence apparatus” and further diplomatic efforts to address the DR Congo’s long-running security crisis in eastern provinces.
Tshisekedi’s first swearing-in, in January 2019 after controversially defeating Joseph Kabila, took place in the gardens of the Palace of Nations, a solemn venue that has traditionally staged important official events.
He is the son of the late historic opposition figure Etienne Tshisekedi.
He became president promising to improve living conditions in the DR Congo – which boasts mineral riches but has a largely impoverished population of 100mn – and put an end to 25 years of bloodshed in the east.
He has not kept those promises but this time around he campaigned strongly on his first-term achievements such as free primary medication, asking for another mandate to “consolidate” the progress.
More than 40mn people were registered to vote on December 20 for a president, as well as national and regional lawmakers and municipal councillors.
Polling was officially extended by a day to account for multiple logistical snarls and continued for days afterwards in remote areas.
In the end, Tshisekedi officially triumphed with 73.47% of the vote.
Moise Katumbi, a former governor of the central region of Katanga, came a distant second with 18.08%.
Martin Fayulu, who says he was also robbed at the last presidential vote, garnered 5%.
Denis Mukwege, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with rape victims, scored just 0.22%.
These candidates called for the election results to be cancelled.
A protest planned for December 27 was banned and snuffed out by the police.
The archbishop of Kinshasa denounced the elections as a “gigantic, organised mess”.
The authorities acknowledged there were issues but dismissed allegations the vote was stolen.
Accusations of fraud and an “electoral hold-up” have not abated and the fear of violence remains real in a country with a dark political past.
Katumbi and Fayulu have appealed to supporters to “show their discontent” this weekend.
They urged people “to stand up and say ‘no’”, from wherever they happen to be.
AFP reporters said that tyres were burnt yesterday morning on the streets of Goma, capital of the conflict-torn eastern province of North Kivu.
In the provincial town of Beni, also in the east, youths tried to set up barricades but police intervened.
The electoral commission CENI has recognised cases of fraud, vandalism and intimidation, as well as the use of illegal voting machines.
In the general election, the vote has been annulled for 82 candidates – including three government ministers and four provincial governors.
The security challenge remains monumental for Tshisekedi.
There was a lull in fighting in the east during the elections but violence has since resumed between the army and M23 rebels, backed by neighbouring Rwanda.
Since mid-December, troops from the 10-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been discreetly arriving in the DR Congo.
They are taking over from an East African peacekeeping force whose mandate was ended by the DR Congo government, which alleged that it colluded with the rebels instead of fighting them.
A senior army officer said on Tuesday that Kinshasa was counting on them to help re-capture ground from the M23 militia, which has conquered swathes of territory in the east since taking up arms again in 2021.
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