Felix Tshisekedi has been sworn in as the new president for the Democratic Republic of Congo in the country’s first ever peaceful transfer of power in history.
Tshisekedi succeeds Joseph Kabila who agreed to step down last year, having come into power in 2001 following the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila.
While addressing his supporters on Thursday, Tshisekedi said that DRC will not be one of “division, hate or tribalism”.
“We want to build a strong Congo in its cultural diversity. We will promote its development in peace and security. A Congo for each and everyone, where everybody has his or her own place” he added.
However, Tshisekedi was momentarily disrupted in his speech when he collapsed on the podium after feeling faint. But he shortly returned and said that he was exhausted from the long presidential campaign and the emotion of the day.
Tshisekedi victory was widely criticized with many citing that it was influenced by the backroom deal between him and the outgoing president Joseph Kabila. Many people led by Congo’s Catholic Church claim that it was rather another opposition leader Martin Fayulu who had won the election with a landslide victory but denied by the conspiracy of Tshisekedi and Kabila. However, the pair has denied these allegations.
In his speech, Tshisekedi praised Martin Fayulu and described him as a “soldier of the people”, and he also paid tribute to Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary who was Kabila’s preferred candidate but came third in the elections.
There were thousands of supporters at the Palace of the Nation, the seat of the presidency in Kinshasa dressed in white to celebrate their candidate’s victory.
Among the various tasks awaiting Tshisekedi include appointing a Prime Minister in a move that he should calculate to integrate his government with pro-Kabila members who hold majority seats in the country’s parliament. The new president has also got an emergency task of uniting the people of Congo who have been severely divided by the election.
The people of Congo will now be hoping that this inaugural ceremony will mark the end of the two-year political turmoil that began in 2016 when Kabila refused to step down after the expiry of his constitutional term in office.
Among the invited guests who graced the ceremony include heads of state from Kenya and Zambia, Tanzania’s vice president while China, Japan, France, and the United States sent their ambassadors.
Felix Tshisekedi is the current leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a party founded by his late father Etienne Tshisekedi in 1982. He took over the leadership of the party in 2016 after the death of his father.
Some of the long-standing challenges the new president is expected to confront include poverty, corruption and civil wars in the Eastern part of the country. The majority of the citizens have continued to languish in poverty despite the country’s rich mineral reserves of gold, diamond, copper, and coltan. Much of the proceeds obtained from these minerals have been mismanaged and embezzled mostly by corrupt officials leaving the country in abject poverty.
According to the United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP), DR Congo ranks 176th of the 189-nation Human Development Index.