Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, succeeding Joseph Kabila who finally stepped down after 18 years in power.
Thousands of Tshisekedi supporters, most of them dressed in white, gathered outside the Palace of the Nation in Kinshasa to celebrate the historic event.
“We hope that this will be a real change, especially as he has taken power without bloodshed,” said Saddam Kongolo, a member of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
Tshisekedi fell ill during his inaugural address on Thursday but returned to the stage after a brief pause, saying he was exhausted by the election and the emotion of the moment.
His spokesman later told Reuters that his bulletproof vest had been too tight and he had since removed it.
In his inaugural speech, Tshsekedi assured his supporters of he would create a unified country.
“We want to build a strong Congo in its cultural diversity. We will promote its development in peace and security. A Congo for each and everyone, where everybody has his or her own place,” he said.
Tshisekedi will share power with Kabila’s supporters. One of Tshisekedi’s first tasks will be to appoint a prime minister from Kabila’s party which holds an overwhelming majority in the parliament.
Thursday’s ceremony marked the end of DR Congo’s first peaceful election campaign since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960. The country has been marred by a tumultuous history of coups, assassinations, foreign interventions, civil war and the gutting of state institutions.