Congo presidential rival seeks to defeat Kabila solo

Sun Feb 6, 2011 8:24am GMT

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA (Reuters) - A leading Congolese politician said he does not need alliances to win this year's election -- striking a possible blow at attempts by other opposition leaders to unify against President Joseph Kabila.

Etienne Tshisekedi told Reuters in an interview on Saturday that he is determined to stand and dismissed suggestions made by another leading politician, Vital Kamerhe, that the opposition should hold primaries to choose who runs.

"When I put forward my name as a candidate it was as the president of my party, the UDPS. And I believe I'm capable of doing that at the elections without necessarily making a coalition with other candidates," he said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's historically divided opposition is expected to rethink strategy after the government forced through constitutional reforms reducing the presidential vote to one round, removing the danger for Kabila that his opponents could rally behind a single candidate in a run-off.

Some observers say the reforms were prompted by Tshisekedi's surprise return to the country in December after years of medical treatment in Belgium. He was greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters in the country's chaotic and strongly anti-Kabila capital, Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi said he remained confident that he could win in a single round despite most observers saying Kabila remains the favourite to be re-elected, but that he would welcome the support of other opposition parties.

The UDPS is in contact with other political parties, but no formal negotiations have taken place, he said.

The 78-year-old, a veteran of the Congolese political scene and a former prime minister under late autocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, said his medical problems, which he refused to specify, were no longer an issue, insisting he was in excellent health.   Continued...

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