Tshisekedi pays homage to Kabila

Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election winner, Felix Tshisekedi, on Thursday (January 10) paid his respects to outgoing President Joseph Kabila, whom he described as a “partner in democratic change”.

“First of all I wish to thank God, the master of time and circumstances who allowed for such an event which a few weeks ago was still unimaginable. That is why I follow it directly with – and I know many of you find it hard to accept – but I say it with sincerity, I pay homage to President Joseph Kabila, President of the Republic.

“Today, we must no longer consider each other as adversaries but rather as partners in democratic change in our country,” he appealed.

Tshisekedi, candidate of the Cap for Change (CACH) coalition and UDPS party leader, won with 38.57 percent of more than 18 million ballots cast, Corneille Nangaa, president of the election commission (CENI), told a news conference at about 3 a.m. (0200 GMT), that appeared timed to avoid any immediate reaction in the streets.

In the Kinshasa neighbourhood of Limete where Tshisekedi lives, thousands of people danced in the streets in celebration and cars slowed down and honked their horns.

Some chanted that Congo had “turned the page” on the Kabila era, which began in 1997 when Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent, led a rebellion that overthrew longtime leader Mobutu Sese Seko. Joseph took over in 2001 when Laurent was assassinated.

If Tshisekedi’s victory is confirmed in the next 10 days by the constitutional court, he will become the first leader to take power at the ballot box since Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who was toppled in a coup less than three months after independence in 1960 and killed four months later.

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