Presidential Showdown Looms in DR Congo

Posted December 23rd, 2011 at 1:10 am (UTC-5)
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Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is preparing to swear himself in as president, setting up a confrontation with incumbent leader Joseph Kabila, who was inaugurated for a new term earlier this week.

A Tshisekedi adviser tells VOA that Friday's swearing-in ceremony in Kinshasa will proceed, despite a government threat to arrest the opposition leader.

The country's electoral commission named Mr. Kabila the winner of last month's presidential election but Mr. Tshisekedi, who finished second, rejected the result and proclaimed himself president.

His adviser Valentin Mubake says Mr. Kabila won only through “massive fraud” and rejects assertions that Mr. Tshisekedi might destabilize the country.

“Before thinking about the destabilization of the country, we have to think about the truth of the vote. The reality of the elections is that Mr. Tshisekedi has been elected by the Congolese people. That (means) the stabilization of Congo and that is reality.”

International observers said the poll was deeply flawed, especially in the vote-counting process that American observers termed chaotic.

The election has sparked protests both inside and outside the DRC. On Thursday, rights group Human Rights Watch said Congolese security forces have killed at least 24 people since Mr. Kabila's victory was announced last week.

The report said security forces have been firing on small crowds in an apparent attempt to prevent demonstrations.

The November presidential and legislative polls were only the second free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo's history.

Vote counting in the parliamentary elections was suspended this week. Officials say they need assistance from foreign election experts.