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Presidential runner-up stages rival inauguration

Etienne Tshisekedi, who claims he was robbed of victory in the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election, has defied a police ban by staging his own inauguration three days after President Joseph Kabila was sworn in for a second term.


AFP - Veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who has rejected Joseph Kabila's re-election as the Democratic Republic of Congo's president, held his own "swearing in" ceremony at his home Friday.

Tshisekedi, 79, who came in second in the November 28 election, defied a police ban on his "inauguration", which had been planned for a football stadium in the capital.

Several dozen supporters and officials of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress gathered at his home in the Limete district, where police earlier used tear gas to disperse backers who had gathered nearby.

They also used tear gas at the Martyrs Stadium, where armoured vehicles of the Republican Guard and large forces of police were mobilised to prevent the planned ceremony.

"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.

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."

Kabila, who has been in power since January 2001, took nearly 49 percent of the vote in last month's election, with Tshisekedi coming in second with 32 percent.

Kabila was officially sworn-in at a ceremony in Kinshasa on Tuesday.

Tshisekedi, 79, contends he won the poll but was denied victory by massive fraud.

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 this week denounced what it said was a wave of political arrests, notably of opposition activists, since the elections.

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