Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi vowed to enhance DR Congo’s respect for human rights on Thursday after he was sworn in as president, the country’s first-ever peaceful handover of power.
Tshisekedi took the oath of office flanked by outgoing head of state Joseph Kabila, whose 18-year regime was marked by crackdowns on protest and stifling of dissent.
In his inaugural address, Tshisekedi said he would direct the justice ministry to “draw up a country-wide registry of political prisoners, prisoners of opinions or similar, with a view to releasing them soon.”
“During our term in office, we will ensure that respect for the practice of fundamental rights is guaranteed for all citizens. We pledge to banish all forms of discrimination,” he declared.
“The government will launch an awareness campaign for all employes of the state regarding their responsibility towards our citizens,” he added.
Tshisekedi, 55, was declared victor of the December 30 elections that were delayed three times and whose results remain fiercely contested by the runner-up, Martin Fayulu.
Tshisekedi praised Fayulu, an outspoken critic of Kabila, describing him as a “soldier of the people,” and thanked the third-placed candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who was Kabila’s preferred candidate.
And he honoured his deceased father, Etienne, who launched the UDPS opposition party in 1980 as a dissenting voice to dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
After Tshisekedi senior died in Brussels in February 2017, his son was voted in as party leader.
“We would like to pay a heroic tribute to the man who steered and shaped our political struggle over four decades… imbuing us with the values of political action and service for all Congolese,” he said.
The inaugural address was interrupted for 12 minutes after Tshisekedi briefly fell ill — an episode that he ascribed to the burden of the election campaign.