Kinshasa — Congo on Thursday was poised to inaugurate an opposition leader as its unexpected new president in the Central African country's first peaceful transfer of power since independence nearly 60 years ago.
Felix Tshisekedi won an election that raised numerous concerns about voting irregularities amongst observers as the country chose a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.
Just one African head of state, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, was seen at the ceremony after the international community expressed reservations over alleged election fraud that brought Tshisekedi to power. The United States and others this week have said they will work with the new leader but did not offer congratulations.
Many Congolese hope that Tshisekedi will bring change after 18 years of rule by President Joseph Kabila, who in a final
Tshisekedi now must work with a legislature dominated by members of Kabila's ruling coalition, likely restricting the chances of dramatic reforms in a country that remains largely underdeveloped and plagued by dozens of rebel groups.
Few had expected an opposition victory in Congo, where Kabila has ruled since 2001 and hung on for more than two years of turbulent election delays.
Declared runner-up Martin Fayulu had mounted a court challenge to Tshisekedi's win, alleging massive rigging and demanding a recount. The Constitutional Court on Sunday rejected it.
Outside court, Fayulu accused Kabila of making a backroom deal with Tshisekedi as it became clear the ruling party's candidate did poorly at the polls. Observers have said Fayulu, an opposition lawmaker and businessman who is outspoken about cleaning up Congo's sprawling corruption, was seen as a bigger threat to Kabila and his allies in the country of sprawling mineral wealth.
Few Congolese have taken up Fayulu's call for peaceful protest, appearing instead to accept Tshisekedi's win as long as Kabila is on the way out and there is peace.