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DRC Opposition Leader Warns Kabila Against Corruption, Abuses

  • Joe Bavier

Democratic Republic of Congo's defeated presidential candidate, former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, has warned newly sworn-in President Joseph Kabila that corruption and abuses could undermine democratic gains. In his most aggressive statement since losing the election, last year, Bemba threatened strikes and street protests. Joe Bavier has this report for VOA from Kinshasa.

Jean-Pierre Bemba's statement - broadcast on two of his television stations, late Wednesday - comes as the country struggles to form a new government and just days before a visit by new United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

After losing last year's election, Bemba said he would lead the political opposition against Mr. Kabila. Wednesday, he blasted corruption and vote buying, which he says marred senatorial elections, last week. Kabila supporters won a clear majority, even taking seats in strongholds of Bemba's Union for the Nation coalition.

In his statement, he warns what he calls "twisting of the law" and "the corruption of those elected" destroy hopes for a peaceful democracy and carry the seeds of instability.

Last year's polls were the first free elections in the former Belgian colony in more than 40 years. They were protected by the largest U.N. peacekeeping force, as part of a strategy to try to end years of conflict and chaos.

Some analysts had expressed fears that a Bemba-led opposition could be marginalized and even forced back on to the streets, particularly as Mr. Kabila's majority in the new parliament has given his supporters key positions.

During last year's election process, soldiers loyal to President Kabila and Bemba fought several gun battles in the capital, Kinshasa, raising fears the country could slide back into conflict reminiscent of the devastating 1998-2003 war.

Bemba vows to use all legal means available - protests, strikes and other resistance - to decry what he calls "the deployment of a dictatorial regime behind a democratic facade."

Bemba commands strong support in Kinshasa and other parts of the Lingala-speaking west. In contrast, Mr. Kabila speaks poor Lingala and his power base lies mostly among Swahili-speakers in the east of the vast, mineral-rich country.

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