DRC: Kabila declared president

Mr Kabila was “elected by absolute majority President of the Democratic
Republic of Congo,” supreme court president Benoit Iwamba said outside heavily guarded government buildings in the capital Kinshasa.

The court confirmed the provisional results of the Independent Electoral
Commission, which gave Mr Kabila 58.05 percent of the vote compared to 41.95 for his challenger, vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba.

In the Kabila stronghold of eastern Congo, people celebrated in the streets. His supporters in Kinshasa also rejoiced.

“That’s it, we’ve won, and it’s now time for Mr Bemba to go back to the jungle,” said one man, clutching a bottle of beer.

The legal challenge brought by Mr Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo party contesting the provisional results was “unfounded”, the court said, ruling against all eight points of his case.

The presidential run-off between Mr Kabila and Mr Bemba was the culmination of the first free elections in 41 years. But the country is still not at peace.

While Mr Bemba, a former rebel leader, has condemned violence, his backers and troops in his guard have been involved in bloody clashes in the capital three times since August.

The Congolese army, riot police and UN security forces were out in strength in central Kinshasa ahead of the ruling by the court, which held its session in the foreign ministry building after its own premises were partially burned by protesters last week.

Mr Kabila, who has since 2003 headed a transitional regime including his former rebel foes, won roughly 2.6 million votes more than Mr Bemba in the October 29 second round of the election, according to official figures.

Mr Bemba, a wealthy businessman from the northern Equateur province, had strong support in the west of the country, including Kinshasa, while Mr Kabila was more popular in the east.

While the tension heightened in Kinshasa, troops of the UN mission in DR
Congo (MONUC) went into action to seize back control of an eastern town from soldiers loyal to a dissident general.

Two divisions backing General Laurent Nkunda had attacked the regular army in Sake, a town near the Nord-Kivu Province capital of Goma on the border with Rwanda.

After UN forces came under fire, MONUC on Monday used assault helicopters and ground troops against the dissidents and reported from Goma that Sake was back in the hands of the peacekeepers.

Three provinces in the east of the mineral-rich DRC are still affected by violence in the wake of a 1998-2003 war that engulfed the whole country after the 1997 ouster of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko by Kabila’s father, Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Joseph Kabila became president during that conflict after Kabila senior was murdered in 2001, and engaged in a peace process monitored by the United
Nations to end the conflict that had dragged in the armies of more than half a dozen other countries on rival sides.

Mr Bemba in 2003 became a vice president like the leader of the other main rebel force under a peace accord agreed in South Africa the previous year, while the political opposition was also drawn into Mr Kabila’s transitional government.

The presidential poll followed parliamentary elections in July and led in
August to clashes in central Kinshasa between Mr Bemba’s guard of about 1,000 men and Mr Kabila’s troops, in which at least 23 people were killed.

Twice this month election-related violence has flared again, claiming four lives and heightening tensions in Kinshasa. On November 21, a pro-Bemba crowd outside the Supreme Court clashed with riot police and set fire to part of the building before the UN peacekeepers moved in.

The presence in the city of heavily armed troops in Mr Bemba’s security detail has been a constant concern, but between 85 and 100 of the 1,000 soldiers have pulled out of the capital since Thursday, according to different military and diplomatic sources involved in talks to keep the peace.