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November 16, 2011

DRC Opposition Candidate Denies Calling for Violence

A Congolese presidential candidate has denied calling for violence ahead of elections, but has reiterated his claim that he is the country's true leader.

In an interview with VOA's French to Africa Service Thursday, Etienne Tshisekedi talked about comments he made last week, in which he proclaimed himself president and urged supporters to free alleged political detainees from prisons.

Tshisekedi said he "did not ask the people to take up weapons" but was calling instead for "mobilization," which he said should be done peacefully.

However, the candidate repeated what he told a Congolese TV station last week, saying "I am the president. It's me. I'm appointed by the people."

The Democratic Republic of Congo holds elections November 28, the country's second national polls since the end of a brutal civil war. The 78-year-old Tshisekedi is one of two main opposition candidates challenging President Joseph Kabila.

After Tshisekedi called for a jailbreak last week, DRC authorities shut down the pro-opposition TV station on which he had spoken, and condemned the opposition leader's comments as irresponsible and potentially criminal.

Supporters of rival Congolese parties have clashed several times since campaigning began late last month.

The United States, European Union and United Nations all have expressed concern about election-related unrest and violence, and the International Criminal Court has said it will prosecute any perpetrators of election-related crimes.

Tshisekedi said Thursday that if he is not elected on November 28, he will respect the results, as long as the process is fair and transparent.