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Fears of violence as Congo confirms Tshisekedi as president

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Vital Kamerhe, leader of the UNC party, endorses Felix Tshisekedi (R), leader of Congolese main opposition, at a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, November 23, 2018.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitutional court has confirmed that Felix Tshisekedi won the December presidential election, rejecting a legal challenge by runner-up Martin Fayulu.

Fayulu had claimed that Tshisekedi's win was null due to voter fraud and filed an appeal against the result of the election. He said the result was the product of a secret deal between Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila to cheat him out of a win.

Kabila's and Tshisekedi's camps denied making any such deal and the president of the constitutional court, Benoit Luamba, rejected the challenge as "inadmissible."

According to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), Tshisekedi received more than 7 million votes, Fayulu got about 6.4 million, while Kabila's hand-picked candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary won about 4.4 million votes.

The commission also said Fayulu had failed to prove that there had been any manipulation or rigging of votes in the disputed election.

"We are happy that the voice of the Congolese people has been heard and that a true democratic and peaceful handover will occur," Tshisekedi spokesman Vidiye Tshimanga said. 

However, if Fayulu's supporters reject the result, it could worsen unrest that has already seen 34 people killed, 59 wounded and 241 "arbitrary arrests" in the past week, according to the UN human rights office.

Congo's constitutional court is widely seen as beholden to Kabila, who has been in power since his father was assassinated in 2001.

The court's decision will now pave the way for Tshisekedi to take over from Kabila in an official ceremony on Tuesday.

Kabila's critics, however, say the outgoing president will be able to retain his power and influence through the parliament.

In a recent general election, a coalition supporting Kabila won parliamentary majority.

Kabila's critics say losing parliamentary majority will undercut Tshisekedi’s ability to deliver on campaign promises.

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