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Possible Political Showdown Inches Closer in Kinshasa

  • Nico Colombant

A possible political showdown is inching closer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the second place candidate in the fraud-marred November presidential election says he is the rightful president.

There is a heavy security deployment across Congo’s capital Kinshasa, as Etienne Tshisekedi says he will swear himself in as president on Friday.

Mr. Tshisekedi has even called on his supporters to capture the controversially re-elected President Joseph Kabila. "Concerning people who have created all these problems, starting with Mr. Kabila, I call on all of you to look for this man wherever he is in the country and bring him to me, here, alive," he said.

Mr. Kabila was sworn in earlier this week at the presidential compound in Kinshasa. During his speech, he did not have kind words for his political adversary. “On November 28, you were asked to choose between illusion based on inflammatory language and on the other hand, a perspective for consolidating peace and security, and reconstructing the country," he said.

Human rights groups fear there could be violence and a harsh military crackdown if opposition supporters bring more protests into the streets. U.S-based Human Rights Watch says Congolese security forces have already killed 24 people this month in post-election violence.

Parliamentary elections were also held in November, but this week, vote counting was suspended, until, officials say, foreign election experts arrive to help.

U.S. observers described vote counting in the presidential election as chaotic, and said the vote was so full of flaws, from instances of ballot stuffing to rampant voter intimidation, it could not be considered credible.

Analysts say parties supporting Mr. Tshisekedi could still gain control of parliament and make him prime minister in a tension appeasing power-sharing arrangement.

In the meantime, sometimes violent protests have erupted outside the DRC, including Brussels.

In Washington, there have also been protests and more are being planned. Outside the White House, Congolese immigrant Blaise Kazadi demanded credible election results. “(Mr.) Kabila, he cheated in the election so he should not be president. We have one elected president. That is Etienne Tshisekedi. We are here to support the Congolese people who elected Etienne Tshisekedi and who did not elect Joseph Kabila," he said.

When Congo’s top court rejected an opposition bid to annul the presidential vote, the opposition reacted by saying it was totally rejecting that ruling, setting up what many Congolese fear could turn into an increasingly violent showdown.