Felix Tshisekedi is set to be sworn in as Congo’s new president on Thursday, possibly marking the first peaceful, though not undisputed, transfer of power in the troubled country’s history.
The inauguration will take place at the presidential palace in Kinshasa at midday (1100 GMT), ushering in the end of over two decades of rule by the Kabila family.
However, the December elections that saw opposition leader Tshisekedi declared the surprise victor were not without controversy, after another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, alleged fraud.
Fayulu said that after President Joseph Kabila’s chosen successor and ruling party candidate lost the vote, Kabila and Tshisekedi did a backroom deal.
Voting tallies by the influential Catholic Church as well as results leaked to several foreign newspapers, also appear to show Fayulu was the actual winner.
While the international community had been slow to congratulate Tshisekedi, most seem to have now come on board, presumably wishing to avoid an outbreak of violence in Congo.
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department joined countries, including France and South Africa in congratulating Tshisekedi – though with a caveat.
The statement encouraged the government “to address reports of electoral irregularities.”
“We also recognise President Joseph Kabila’s commitment to becoming the first president in DRC history to cede power peacefully through an electoral process,’’ it added.
It was not clear which foreign heads of state would be attending the inauguration.
“Those who want to come are welcome,’’ Jean-Pierre Kambila, the deputy director of Kabila’s cabinet, told dpa.