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Opposition Leader Wins Congolese Presidential Election

Jan 10, 2019
Originally published on January 10, 2019 6:06 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Democratic Republic of Congo, the provisional result of a long-awaited presidential election had hardly been announced and the outcome was contested. The election commission declared one opposition frontrunner, Felix Tshisekedi, the winner of a vote on December 30. Another opposition contender says those results were rigged. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Kinshasa that this vote was supposed to herald Congo's first democratic and peaceful transfer of power.

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CORNEILLE NANGAA: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: After a long night of waiting, Congo's embattled election chief Corneille Nangaa eventually declared the provisional winner of the highly anticipated presidential vote.

NANGAA: Monsieur Tshisekedi (unintelligible)...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

QUIST-ARCTON: Felix Tshisekedi is the son of Congo's historic, late opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in 2017 after being an implacable critic of first former president Mobutu Sese Seko, then Laurent-Desire Kabila and his son, outgoing President Joseph Kabila. But Tshisekedi Junior appears to have succeeded where his father failed by winning that elusive presidency.

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PRESIDENT-ELECT FELIX TSHISEKEDI: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Addressing his supporters in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said the voters had spoken and promised to govern for all Congolese. Fifty-five-year-old Felix Tshisekedi spent much of his life in Belgium, the former colonial power in Congo, and is considered a political novice by his detractors, despite holding high office in his father's opposition party and being propelled into the leadership after Etienne Tshisekedi's death. The son now looks set to take over from outgoing President Kabila with whom observers say Felix Tshisekedi has negotiated a backdoor deal.

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MARTIN FAYULU: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: That's the view of fellow opposition presidential frontrunner Martin Fayulu, who came in second after Tshisekedi. Fayulu says the outcome was fixed and Tshisekedi has been co-opted to cook up an acceptable replacement that suits Kabila, whose preferred candidate trailed in third place.

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FAYULU: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: A furious Fayulu has denounced what he describes as a scandalous, electoral coup - rigged, fabricated and invented, he says, which fails to reflect the truth of the ballots. Fayulu says voters have been robbed of victory and democracy. He looks poised to formally challenge the results.

Meanwhile, Fayulu is calling on election monitors, including Congo's influential Catholic bishops conference, which fielded thousands of observers, to publish what he says are the real results. The bishops announced last week that their observations indicated a clear winner and warned the election commission to ensure its results reflected the will of the Congolese people.

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QUIST-ARCTON: While many Congolese are celebrating the presumed victory of Felix Tshisekedi, many others question whether he can be his own man and steer vast, mineral-rich Congo away from its reputation for corruption, kleptocracy and rampant cronyism. Others, though, are holding their breath and praying that whatever happens, peace will prevail. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Kinshasa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.