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Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as the Democratic Republic of Congo president on Thursday, marking a historic transfer of power in the restive country.

In President Tshisekedi’s address, he called for national reconciliation, promising “to build a strong Congo, turned toward its development in peace and security, a Congo for all, in which everyone has a place.”

President Tshisekedi’s victory in the December 30 election was marred by accusations that he struck a backroom deal with outgoing president Joseph Kabila, to deny victory to another opposition candidate Martin Fayulu. Both the Kabila and Tshisekedi camps deny the allegations.

Now, President Tshisekedi has the challenge of earning legitimacy among the Congolese people and his African peers.

But Mr Fayulu, who insists he was robbed of the presidency, has few legal options after the Constitutional Court affirmed President Tshisekedi’s win.

Despite the court affirming his win at 38 percent, Mr Fayulu claims that he won by over 60 percent and was robbed through a conspiracy.

Early in the week, Mr Fayulu, a 62-year-old businessman, took a walk on the streets of Kinshasa ostensibly to gauge his popularity and the level of disenchantment with the turn of events.

However, the West, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community — whom he had hoped would stand by him and reject the results whose credibility they had “serious doubts” on and called for a recount — have since backtracked.

A number of African countries, including Kenya, Egypt, Burundi and South Africa, congratulated President Tshisekedi. France, which initially rejected the results, as well as the US, have since “noted” President Tshisekedi’s victory.

Head of the division for conflict prevention and risk analysis at the Institute for Security Studies Stephanie Wolters told The EastAfrican that Mr Fayulu does not have the capacity to disrupt governance in a substantial and sustained way, and that as a businessman with interests in the country he wouldn’t opt for armed conflict.

“The bottom line is that Kabila still has the power because his FCC has a majority in parliament, the Senate and provincial assemblies, which makes it a very tough battle trying to overturn the whole thing,” Ms Wolters said.


Mr Fayulu’s backers — Moise Katumbi and Jean Pierre Bemba — have maintained their rejection of the results and there are questions whether they could consider a military option.

Olivier Kamitatu, communications director of the Fayulu Campaign, warned on his Twitter handle that silence is not a song of acceptance, and that it is definitely not submission. Mr Fayulu had tweeted that “We have nothing left but the resistance of Article 64 of the constitution.”

But the most forthright is former warlord Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, the leader of the Forces for Renewal Political Party, who said he is ready to mobilise his forces, especially in North Kivu where one-third of the registered voters were denied a chance to choose their leader.

Ms Wolters said that SADC had not been standing up to Mr Kabila, and it was only the President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, who felt strongly about the results. However, when South Africa did not join in, President Lungu backed down.

On the other hand, the AU did not totally backtrack but said it would work with President Tshisekedi. However, by the time of going to press, the AU had not congratulated President Tshisekedi.

Only Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the swearing-in ceremony, out of the 17 heads of state who were invited.

“Most SADC counties did not want to pressure Kabila on transparency any more. They cite sovereignty and domestic legal institutions when dealing with such situations,” Ms Wolters said.

This where the legitimacy of Mt Tshisekedi comes in with supporters of Mr Fayulu not recognising him while about 1.2 million registered voters in North Kivu were denied the chance elect their leader because of fear of violence and Ebola.

An AU high-level visit that was supposed to include chair Paul Kagame and chair of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat was postponed after the Constitutional Court released the results. There are indications that the DRC will be among the agenda items to be discussed at the AU summit in Addis Ababa in February.

The AU had asked the Constitutional Court to delay announcing the final results until President Kagame and Mr Mahamat arrived. They were going to hold political consultations with the objective of creating a government of national unity.

Additional reporting by Reuters