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DR Congo’s Tshisekedi falls ill during inauguration speech

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 12, 2017 Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the main Democratic Republic of Congo opposition party, The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), speaks during a press conference in his residence in Kinshasa. – The United States on January 23, 2019 recognized Felix Tshisekedi as the next president of DR Congo, casting aside concerns over the election as it hailed a historic peaceful transfer of power. The United States joins the African Union and European Union in signaling they were ready to work with Tshisekedi, showing no appetite to prolong uncertainties in the violence-prone country despite rival Martin Fayulu’s allegations of widespread fraud. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

DR Congo’s new President Felix Tshisekedi fell ill briefly as he was delivering his inauguration speech on Thursday following the country’s first peaceful handover of power.

Tshisekedi, 55, returned to the microphone after 12 minutes, saying: “A famous president of our country said in his time: ‘understand my emotion’.”

He was quoting the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who said those words in 1990 as he was announcing the end of single-party rule in the vast central African country.

“The campaign we had to run… got the better of me,” Tshisekedi added, apologising for the interruption as his predecessor Joseph Kabila looked on impassively through his trademark dark glasses.

State television had interrupted its live broadcast of the historic event after Tshisekedi said, “I don’t feel well”, and sat down as family members came to his side.

During the ceremony, Tshisekedi received the national flag and a copy of the constitution from Kabila, who is stepping aside after 18 years at the helm of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country.

Thousands of Tshisekedi supporters, many of them dressed in white, celebrated the historic event outside the Palace of the Nation, the seat of the presidency, in Kinshasa.


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