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December 09, 2011

Eastern Congolese Opposition Join Forces to Protest Election

by Heather Murdock

The situation in The Democratic Republic of Congo remains unsettled following a refusal by the opposition to accept the re-election of the country's president.  Competing opposition parties in the region say they are joining forces to support the main opposition candidate's claim that he, in fact, won the election.

Five goats were slaughtered in downtown Goma Saturday in honor of President Joseph Kabila's re-election victory.

During the campaign, Kabila was the only candidate with the money to widely distribute tee-shirts, baseball hats, umbrellas, ladies dresses and other paraphernalia - so the center of town is decked out in blue, white and yellow and the slogan, "100 percent for the president."  And as they barbeque the goats on the streets near the marketplace, a few supporters say they are drinking "Ka-beer-a."

Paul Katakala is the chef in charge of the feast.  He says Kabila is a moderate leader who ended, or at least slowed, the conflict in this eastern province.

Katakala says he expects as many as 1,500 people to fill this marketplace celebration out of love for their president, who he calls "the man who united Congo."

On the edges of the celebration, a young man in a tie beckons reporters away from the crowd.  He says the celebration is for a criminal, who robbed the rightful Congolese president, Etienne Tshisekedi of his post.  Tshisekedi says he considers himself president by the people's will although Congo's electoral commission has declared Kabila re-elected with nearly 49-percent of the vote.  It says Tshisekedi won 32 percent of ballots cast.

Supporters of oppositon leader Etienne Tshisekedi outside a campaign office in Goma and say he won the election.
Photo: VOA Photo H. Murdock
Supporters of oppositon leader Etienne Tshisekedi outside a campaign office in Goma and say he won the election.

Fiston Kheta heads the regional youth league associated with the United Forces for Change, the party of Kengo wa Dondo, the candidate who came in fourth in the presidential race with 4.35 percent of the vote.

Kheta says his guy lost, but he says many opposition leaders now back Tshisekedi.  He says he wants international observers to declare the election a fraud before it is too late to prevent what he calls a "bloodbath."   There have been scattered reports of violence since Friday's announcement that Kabila had won the election.  

At the Goma campaign office for Etienne Tshisekedi, supporters are annoyed at passing busses tooting their horns in support of Kabila, but they don't react.  Another regional youth league president, Alidor Mbuyamba says if the international community does not recognize Tshisekedi as the winner, there will be protests.  

The roomful of young men applaud when he says that Etienne Tshisekedi was democratically elected, and he will form a government.