Felix Tshisekedi was sworn into office in Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, during a ceremony interrupted for 12 minutes as the new president was briefly upset in the moment.
“Ça ne va pas,” he said, without any further explanation of what was “not right.” The broadcast of the inauguration was cut during the disruption, before Tshisekedi returned to the podium and acknowledged an emotional moment.
Thousands of people gathered at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, where Tshisekedi invoked the memory of his father Etienne and the long struggle of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party, in a nation that’s been led by former president Joseph Kabila since 2001.
“We have been your fervent political opponent,” said Tshisekedi. “We do not forget anything about our political struggles, the difficult times we went through.” He nonetheless praised Kabila’s delayed decision to step aside and facilitate the first peaceful transition of power in the nation’s history.
Tshisekedi made the decision to run alongside Vital Kamerhe of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party after both men backed out of a November coalition agreement to support Martin Fayulu of Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECiDé) party. Fayulu was widely viewed as the legitimate winner of the Congolese elections, and mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge when Tshisekedi was declared the victor by the country’s independent national electoral commission (CENI).
CENI reported a Tshisekedi win with 38.6 percent of the vote, followed by Fayulu at 34.8 percent and the Kabila-backed candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary with 23.8 percent. Fayulu called the contest a political coup, as the international community kept its distance and offered a tepid response to the news of Tshisekedi’s victory. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya was the only head of state to attend.
Kabila promised a peaceful transition of power in a televised address Thursday, but many fear he will continue to rule the DR Congo from the shadows particularly as the ruling party coalition holds the legislative majority. Kabila now becomes a “senator for life” in keeping with the Congolese constitution, and said in December that he has not ruled out a return to power in 2023.