Felix Tshisekedi sworn in as DR Congo president

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on January 24th, 2019

Kinshasa, DR Congo: The new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, has been sworn into office .He is taking over from Joseph Kabila in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country in nearly 60 years, though many still dispute his victory in last month’s presidential election.

He told supporters at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Kinshasa he wanted to build a “reconciled Congo”.

Mr Tshisekedi was briefly taken ill before resuming his speech.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was the only African head of state, out of 17 invited, to watch the ceremony.

Numerous sources say his opponent Martin Fayulu won a landslide victory and has been denied office by a backroom deal between Mr Kabila and Mr Tshisekedi.

The influential Catholic Church, which deployed election observers on voting day, said the official data did not match its own numbers.

Mr Fayulu’s appeal to the Constitutional Court for a vote re-count was rejected, and critics say the body is too close to outgoing President Kabila and lacks independence.

Mr Tshisekedi had to cut short his inaugural address on Thursday after feeling faint. But he returned to the podium, saying he was exhausted from the long presidential campaign and the emotion of the day.

“We want to build a strong Congo, turned toward development in peace and security – a Congo for all in which everyone has a place,” he told the crowd.

Many people there believe the handover does show the DR Congo is becoming more democratic, the BBC’s Gaïus Kowene in Kinshasa reports.

Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Mr Kabila called on Congolese citizens to support his successor, who he said could call on him for advice at any time.

The new president is mostly known for being the son of the late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who was regarded as one of DR Congo’s most important pro-democracy advocates.

The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party President Tshisekedi leads was founded in 1982 by his father, who turned it into the largest opposition party.

But President Tshisekedi, 55, insists he is not trying to rival his father.

Felix Tshisekedi’s father founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (known by its French initials UDPS) in 1982, and was a feared rival of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who died months after being ousted in 1997, and later of Presidents Laurent and Joseph Kabila.

Under his leadership, the UDPS became the country’s largest opposition party, but he never succeeded in winning office.

His legal challenge to the official results of the 2011 presidential election, which showed he won 32% of the vote to Joseph Kabila’s 49%, failed.

The veteran opposition leader died in 2017 leaving a big question over who would succeed him.

In March last year, he was voted in as the party’s new head and became its de facto candidate for the presidential elections.

But Mr Tshisekedi did not simply cash in on his name. He has been immersed in politics from a very young age, and had to work his way through the party.

He also had to suffer the consequences of his father’s political activism.

When the UDPS was created, the Tshisekedi family was forced into internal exile to their home town in the central Kasai province.

They stayed there until 1985, when President Mobutu allowed the mother and children to leave.

Felix Tshisekedi then went to the Belgian capital, Brussels. After completing his studies there he took up politics, working his way through his father’s party to become national secretary for external affairs for the UDPS, based in Brussels.

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