Felix Tshisekedi may be installed as DR Congo’s new president this week after a long awaited election whose outcome was disputed by the runner-up, Martin Fayulu.
The ceremony, which may be fixed for Thursday, will see Felix Tshisekedi sworn in as president, replacing Joseph Kabila who has ruled DR Congo since 2001.
The inauguration looks set to draw a line under three weeks of indecision over the long and drawn-out counting process after the December 30 vote, which provisionally declared Tshisekedi, one of two opposition candidates, the winner.
This outcome was swiftly denounced by his opposition rival Martin Fayulu, who filed an appeal. He claimed he had been cheated of an outright victory by an “electoral coup” masterminded by Kabila with Tshisekedi’s approval.
Although leaked figures from the provisional count appear to be heavily in his favour, the Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal.
At stake is political stewardship of the mineral-rich central African nation.
Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of some 80 million and covers an area the size of western Europe.
– In Kinshasa –
Ahead of this week’s ceremony, tiny pockets of clashes have taken place in some parts of the capital by supporters of the political leaders .
The Actualite news website said one of its reporters was “assaulted by police”, while others were attacked by Fayulu supporters who accused them of being pro-Tshisekedi.
Although the ceremony had been due to take place on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Cach opposition coalition that backed Tshisekedi said it was likely to happen on Thursday.
– ‘Don’t encourage fraud, lies’ –
Without a firm date, officials have been unable to send out invitations to foreign heads of state and government — and given the dispute over the result, it remains to be seen how the day itself will turn out.
The court’s dismissal of Fayulu’s appeal and its subsequent confirmation of Tshisekedi as president-elect may have left doubts across sub-Saharan Africa.
Although Kenya and the 16-nation Southern African Development Community congratulated Tshisekedi, the result won a mixed reception among the nine nations bordering DR Congo.
Burundi and Tanzania, who are working with Kinshasa to fight rebels on their common border, sent congratulations, while Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Angola remained silent.
Fayulu, who has declared himself “president-elect”, has urged African leaders not to formally recognise Tshisekedi.
“I urge the African presidents who asked the Congolese people to respect the Constitutional Court’s decision, to respect the sovereign decision of the Congolese people who elected me president with more than 60 percent of the vote,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We should not encourage fraud, lies and falsehood,” he said.
– AU has doubts –
The AU had expressed “serious doubts” about the provisional result and urged the court to delay its announcement pending a visit by its chairman, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, and AU Commission president Moussa Faki on Monday.
But the weekend announcement caught the AU off guard, sweeping aside its concerns and prompting it to “postpone” the visit.
France, which had openly disputed the provisional results, has now issued a statement saying it “noted” Tshisekedi’s victory.
“This election allowed the Congolese people to strongly and calmly voice their desire for change,” the foreign ministry said, indicating the French ambassador would attend the ceremony.
“We hope the new president knows how to respond to this and we call on him to hold dialogue with the rest of the country’s political actors to achieve that end.”
DR Congo’s influential Roman Catholic Church has dismissed the official result, saying it “does not correspond” with data collected by its 40,000 election monitors.
For now, at least, DR Congo appears to be going through its first-ever peaceful handover of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
The president-elect is the son of DR Congo’s Etienne Tshisekedi, a veteran politician who founded the country’s oldest and largest opposition party.