Congo opposition leader declares himself winner

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2011 2:10 PM
Congo opposition leader declares himself winner

Congo's opposition leader has declared himself winner of the presidential vote, despite placing second in official election results.

The country's supreme court upheld incumbent President Joseph Kabila's victory a little over a week ago, even after international observers expressed concerns about irregularities.

Etienne Tshisekedi said Sunday at a news conference at his home that Kabila's government "is dismissed starting today."

"I consider myself from this time forward as the president elected by the Congolese people of the Democratic Republic of Congo," Tshisekedi said. "I urge you to remain calm and serene, and to create the climate that the foreign investors need."

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said he had no comment on Tshisekedi's declaration. Tshisekedi has previously proclaimed himself president and last month ordered his followers to stage jailbreaks to free detained colleagues. Mende then called Tshisekedi's statements possible treason and criminal.

Kabila first came to power after his father's assassination and now has led the massive, mineral-rich Central African nation for a decade. Presidential election results showed Kabila with 49 percent, and Tshisekedi with 32 percent of the nearly 19 million votes cast. Some international observers, however, have said the turnout was impossibly high in some districts.

Observers fear unrest if Tshisekedi _ a 79-year-old longtime opposition leader who is enormously popular with the country's impoverished masses _ orders his supporters to take to the streets.

The November election was only the second democratic vote in Congo's 51-year history, and the first to be organized by the Congolese government rather than by the international community.

Congo, which is sub-Saharan Africa's largest country, has suffered decades of dictatorship and civil war. The country's east is still wracked by violence from a myriad of militias and rebel groups.