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The Road Ahead for the DRC

Félix Tshisekedi’s apparent victory in the Democratic Republic of Congo's long-postponed presidential election should be a cause for celebration, at home and throughout the Congolese diaspora. But the transition now facing the DRC is certain to be long, perilous, and frustrating.

CAPE TOWN – In the early hours of January 10, election authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo finally announced that Félix Tshisekedi, leader of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress, won the election held on December 30, with 38.57% of the vote. If Tshisekedi’s victory is confirmed – predictably, the results are being contested – an opposition politician will assume power after 18 years of rule by President Joseph Kabila. But it does not follow that peace and prosperity will automatically ensue.

Tshisekedi has a long road ahead of him. Central Africa’s giant holds the continent’s richest mineral wealth. Yet, having suffered war and violence for most of its history, its economy remains woefully underdeveloped and its people impoverished.

Kabila assumed power in January 2001, after his father, President Laurent Kabila, was assassinated. Over Joseph Kabila’s 18-year rule, the DRC has remained fragile, owing to persistent, protracted conflict in the country’s eastern regions and elsewhere, as well as rampant corruption and looting of state assets. Little has changed for ordinary Congolese, 80% of whom live on less than $1.25 a day.

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