Business, Finance & Economics

Congo News: Kabila sworn in, showdown looms


Supporters of the People Party for the Reconstruction and the Democracy (PPRD) celebrate the election of president Joseph Kabila for a second mandate on December 17, 2011 in Kinshasa.


Gwenn Dubourthoumeiu

A showdown is looming in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tanks rolled through Kinshasa today to ensure order as Joseph Kabila, 40, was sworn in to a second term as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa's largest nation.

The capital city is tense, according to the BBC, as Kabila is being challenged by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, 79.

Tshisekedi claims that he is the rightful president because Kabila's election victory was "fraudulent."

Tshisekedi had challenged Kabila's election victory but on December 15 the Supreme Court upheld the election results saying that  Kabila won 48.95 percent of the vote against 32.33 percent for Tshisekedi in the election on November 28 in which 19 million votes were cast.

Tshisekedi said he, too, will be sworn in as president and he called on Congolese civil servants and security forces to follow his orders. Tshisekedi offered a reward for the capture of Kabila. This was denounced as "criminal," by an aide to Kabila.

It looks like Tshisekedi is trying to set up an alternate government, much as what happened in Ivory Coast when Alassane Ouattara challenged incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who claimed victory in being reelected. Few foreign governments recognized Gbagbo's victory or even attended his inauguration. After several months of conflict, forces loyal to Ouattara, helped by United Nations forces, arrested Gbagbo, who is now facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Ouattara is now president.

It is not clear what will happen in the DRC.

Kabila's reelection has been discredited by some international observers including the Carter Center, which stated the elections were too flawed to be credible. The US and the EU called for a review of the results but stopped short of rejecting them.

The African Union accepted Kabila's election and the South African government said the vote was "generally OK."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was the only head of state who attended Kabila's swearing in ceremony. Not a good sign. South Africa sent its Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Tshisekedi called for a nation-wide strike but Kabila declared today a public holiday, so no one is at work, but it is hard to tell whether people are striking or enjoying a holiday. 

The elections were the first to be organised locally since the end of a devastating civil war in 2003, which left some four million people dead.

A 21-gun salute echoed around the empty streets of Kinshasa as Kabila was sworn into office in the presence of a few thousand supporters and members of the Supreme Court. He received symbols of power from traditional chiefs such as wooden statues and a leopard's skin.