, KINSHASA, Dec 22 – Democratic Republic of Congo opposition chief Etienne Tshisekedi, who rejects Joseph Kabila’s re-election as president, had himself “sworn in” at his home as police clashed with his supporters.
Tshisekedi, 79, who came second in the November 28 poll, on Friday defied a police ban on his “inauguration”, which had been planned for a football stadium in the capital where police fired teargas to prevent the planned ceremony.
With armoured vehicles of the Republican Guard and large forces of police mobilised at the stadium, the event was moved to Tshisekedi’s Kinshasa home, where police also used tear gas on supporters and officials of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress gathered outside.
“It’s banned. There is already an elected president who has been sworn in. We cannot have another swearing-in. It’s an act of subversion,” a source close to the head of the country’s police said.
“Such a rally would be destabilising for the regime in place,” the source added of the event planned for Martyr’s Stadium.
Tshisekedi took the oath on a Bible after his chief of staff Albert Moleka read a statement claiming that “today puts an indelible mark on the history of our country which has passed from dictatorship via the oligarchy of Kabila and his followers to real democracy.”
Government spokesman Lambert Mende promptly dismissed the ceremony as a farce and a non-event, as well as “an insult to oath taking.”
“The head of state only takes the oath before a supreme court,” he said. “Did you see a supreme court judge?”
Meanwhile, the country’s communications minister Lambert Mende said the signal of Radio France International (RFI) was cut several times since late Thursday as it was broadcasting news about Tshisekedi’s planned “swearing-in.”
Mende blasted RFI for becoming “a mouthpiece for the UDPS,” Tshisekedi’s party.
Kabila, who has been in power since January 2001, took nearly 49 percent of the vote in last month’s election, with Tshisekedi coming second with 32 percent.
Kabila was officially sworn-in at a ceremony in Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Tshisekedi contends he was denied victory by massive fraud.
Hundreds of Tshisekedi supporters demonstrated in Antwerp Friday against the reelection of Kabila, whom they accuse of cheating in the polls.
The government Thursday pledged to probe alleged post-vote police killings, as Human Rights Watch said security forces killed at least 24 people and “arbitrarily” arrested dozens since Kabila’s disputed victory was announced December 9.
Justice Minister Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi told AFP his office would work with Human Rights Watch to try to document each case in the report, and that he had already spoken with prosecutors.
“If the allegations are verified, the justice department will take action,” he said.
According to Human Rights Watch, all but four of those in its report died in Kinshasa between December 9 and 14. Two more were killed in eastern Nord Kivu province, and two in central Kasai Occidental.
HRW said it also documented an attack where youths in the capital stoned a priest, who later died of his injuries.
Since Kabila’s victory was announced, “security forces have been firing on small crowds, apparently trying to prevent protests against the result,” HRW senior Africa researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg said.
After interviewing 86 victims and witnesses of violence, the US-based human rights watchdog said it had dozens of unconfirmed reports of killings and attacks by security forces.
Kabila’s victory was upheld even after international observers decried electoral conditions, citing problems in the vote count and the loss of huge numbers of ballots.
HRW said that “police and other security forces appear to be covering up the scale of the killings by quickly removing the bodies.”
It singled out the police and Kabila’s presidential guard for blame.
“The UN and Congo’s international partners should urgently demand that the government rein in its security forces.”
London-based rights group Amnesty International earlier denounced what it said was a wave of political arrests, notably of opposition activists, since the elections.