Democratic Republic of Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi, sought on Monday to reassure the country’s security forces that he would be as “benevolent” as his predecessor, after taking power in the country’s first-ever peaceful change of leadership.
Tshisekedi, who has no military experience, has made several overtures to the powerful security apparatus since succeeding long-term president Joseph Kabila after a bitterly-fought election.
“Do not worry about anything. You are in good hands, your supreme commander will be as benevolent towards you as his predecessor,” he told hundreds of troops and their families in a visit to the presidential guard in Kinshasa.
He told the soldiers he planned to check military rations and look at improving the living conditions for soldiers and their families, in a speech greeted with cheers from the crowd. Tshisekedi met senior army commanders on Friday.
He was sworn in in January following the December polls, but runner-up Martin Fayulu has dismissed the result as an “electoral coup” masterminded by Kabila.
Kabila has stepped down after ruling DRC for 18 years, during which he built up a network of supporters in the armed forces and intelligence services.
Elements in the military and security forces are seen as major power brokers in the volatile nation, which faces multiple armed conflicts as well as an Ebola outbreak in the east.
In December the European Union renewed sanctions imposed on 14 officials, including top security figures, over a brutal crackdown on protest and other human rights violations.
On the list is General Gabriel Amisi Kumba, nicknamed “Tango Four” because of his former radio call sign, who was appointed deputy chief of staff of the army by Kabila in July.
The bloc has also listed Roger Kibelisa, in charge of internal security, and Delphin Kaimbi, also spelt Kahimbi, former head of military intelligence, who was appointed to another senior intelligence post in July.
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