President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo was sworn in for a second five-year term on Saturday, following a landslide victory that his opponents refused to recognize due to widespread irregularities in the December general election.
Authorities acknowledged there were issues, but denied allegations that the vote was stolen. The fractious standoff recalls previous electoral disputes that fueled unrest in Congo.
Tshisekedi took the oath of office in a stadium in Kinshasa, which was packed with supporters waving small flags, government officials, African heads of state, and foreign envoys from the United States, China, and France.
“I am taking back the baton of command that you entrusted to me. We want a more united, stronger and prosperous Congo,” Tshisekedi, 60, spoke during the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by several heads of state.
His first inauguration in 2019 marked Congo’s first democratic transfer of power since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
With armed military police deployed throughout the capital, there was no immediate indication that opposition supporters in Kinshasa were responding to a call from two of Tshisekedi’s main opponents to protest his re-election.
Congo, a country of more than 100 million people, has vast mineral resources, but economic and security challenges have stifled its growth. According to United Nations statistics, one in every four citizens faces crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.