In power in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2001, today Joseph Kabila takes office for the first time backed by a popular vote. Winning with 58 percent in October, Kabila’s investiture is being staged to mark a turning point in the nation’s history. At least 16 heads of state have turned out, and former colonial power Belgium is represented by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
After five years of regional wars at the turn of the century that threatened to split the vast mineral-rich country, Kabila took over from his murdered father, becoming Africa’s youngest head of state. His task remains a daunting one. He has yet to form a government from his multi-party coalition, and there are two more upcoming elections to negotiate in January, for the Senate and Provincial Governors.