Congo opposition leader holds own inauguration

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2011 12:37 PM
Congo opposition leader holds own inauguration

Congo's opposition leader held a private ceremony inaugurating himself president Friday after police prevented him and his supporters from gathering publicly, a spokesman said, a move that comes three days after the president was sworn in for a second term.

Police fired tear gas Friday at supporters of Etienne Tshisekedi as they attempted to reach Kinshasa's Martyrs' Stadium. Police also gathered near the home of the 79-year-old opposition leader, prompting him to hold the ceremony Friday afternoon in the company of about a dozen colleagues, said party spokesman Jean Marie Vianey Kabukanyi.

President Joseph Kabila was sworn in earlier in the week after he was announced the official winner of the November poll.

Observers fear Tshisekedi's move could spark more election-related violence in the mineral-rich central African nation. Police inspector general Charles Bisengimana said the situation was calm in Kinshasa on Friday.

About 1,000 Tshisekedi supporters of gathered near the stadium Friday morning. Several tanks waited nearby.

Hours after the event was scheduled to begin, Kabukanyi said Tshisekedi was still at home and was consulting with colleagues on his next move.

"Etienne Tshisekedi is well at his home in Limete" neighborhood, Kabukanyi said.

Tshisekedi earlier declared himself the winner of the election that international and local observers say lacked credibility, defying Kabila who results said had 49 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for Tshisekedi.

Kabila came to power after his father's assassination and has led Congo for a decade. His father, Laurent Kabila, was a rebel leader who toppled the country's dictator of 32 years, Mobutu Sese Seko, in 1997.

Joseph Kabila was declared the winner following constitutional reforms he pushed through parliament limiting the election to one round. Under the old rules, any winner had to have more than 50 percent of votes.

Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that security forces have killed at least 24 people and detained dozens in attacks to quell dissent over the much-criticized vote.

Tshisekedi last month ordered his followers to stage jailbreaks to free detained colleagues.

Observers fear unrest if Tshisekedi, 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 perpetrated by dozens of militia and rebel groups.