Bemba accepts defeat: DRCongo

Mr Bemba said he felt “great disappointment and frustration at the manner in which the Supreme Court dealt” with his case before it proclaimed that the incumbent Joseph Kabila had won the October 29 election.

“Nevertheless, in the higher interest of the nation and a desire to keep the peace and prevent the country sliding into chaos and violence, I today undertake before God, the nation and history, to pursue the fight for change in a strong and republican opposition,” he said in a statement.

Three times since late August, the city centre has been wracked by violence involving Mr Bemba’s supporters, riot police, and on one occasion, Kabila’s troops, claiming nearly 30 lives. Part of the Supreme Court was set ablaze last week.

A Kabila ally, Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi, told news agency AFP that he hoped Mr Bemba was “sincere” about heading a political opposition within democratic institutions.

Mr Sakanyi added that the ex-rebel chief must “stop considering himself as a warlord” and avoid the temptation “to keep a part of the army” for his own service.

Kabila congratulated

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent his congratulations to Mr Kabila and the Congolese people and called on all DRC opposition leaders and their supporters to peacefully accept the final election results.

Mr Kabila, who is Africa’s youngest president at 35, has a mandate to rule the DRC for five more years, after the first free elections in more than four decades.

The European Union also congratulated Mr Kabila and pledged support, as did the representatives in Kinshasa of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council of the United Nations.

The ambassadors in the DRC of the Security Council powers issued a statement of “warm congratulations” to Mr Kabila and also commended Mr Bemba on “a significant and respectable electoral score.”

The former rebel took nearly 42 percent of the second round votes on October 29 to Mr Kabila’s 58 percent, according to official figures.

Mr Bemba thanked those who voted for him and issued a rallying cry to “all political and social forces, committed to the ideal of a democratic change in our country, to unite in this fight so that together, reorganised, we can ensure the rebuilding of the Congo.”

Mr Kabila will be sworn in on December 6, but the transition process has yet to finish, with the election on January 7 of senators by the members of provincial parliaments, who will choose their governors a week later.

Dates have yet to be set for local government elections.

The new government is due under accords among political parties to be headed by Antoine Gizenga, an 80-year-old political veteran who served under the first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, after independence 41 years ago.

The first prime minister was murdered in a power struggle that paved the way for decades of increasingly corrupt rule under Mobutu Sese Seko, who was ousted by Mr Kabila’s father in 1997.

Joseph Kabila came to office early in 2001 after his father was assassinated at the height of a regional war involving more than half a dozen foreign armies on rival sides on DRC soil. The war ended in 2003, but fuelled ethnic conflicts in eastern DRC, which is still unstable.