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Cheers for Kabila now jeers as he consolidates power

SHARE Cheers for Kabila now jeers as he consolidates power

Congo's new leader appointed his government Friday - and mainly, it's him. Laurent Kabila kept the bulk of power for himself, giving only two posts to followers of a popular opposition leader.

Shouting "Dictator!" several hundred outraged supporters of Etienne Tshisekedi marched through the streets of the capital, denouncing Kabila as no better than the corrupt leader he usurped and demanding that Tshisekedi be made prime minister.It was an abrupt reversal. Just six days ago, residents were hailing Kabila as Congo's liberator for his ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko in a nine-month sweep across Africa's third-largest nation.

After changing the country's name from Zaire to Congo and naming himself president, Kabila picked a new government Friday that did not include Tshisekedi (pronounced CHEE-sa-kedie).

He saved most posts for his Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and reserved control of the military for himself. He refused to name a prime minister.

Tshisekedi had been prime minister twice since 1991, both times ousted by Mobutu, and his supporters want him in the job again. But while he is popular in Kinshasa - where he led a series of successful strikes against Mobutu's regime - it is unclear how widely his popularity extends.

He has a low international profile. Critics call him obstinate and say he's prone to rash moves. And Tshisekedi must compete with Ka-bila, who firmly holds power and controls a loyal fighting force.

After Kabila announced his government, Tshisekedi's supporters marched 12 miles from their leader's home in suburban Kinshasa to the parliament building.

Singing songs criticizing Kabila and praising Tshisekedi, the crowd attacked at least three bystanders, tearing a pro-Kabila shirt off one man and beating another man with a chair. One of Kabila's soldiers fired a shot in the air to scatter the crowd, but no injuries were reported.

The marchers stopped briefly at the U.S. Embassy, where they shouted criticism at Washington's recognition of Kabila as Congo's leader.

At a news conference, Tshisekedi acknowledged his refusal to discuss politics with an Alliance official, Deo Bugera, dispatched to meet with him Wednesday. He demanded a face-to-face meeting with Kabila.

"For me, he is not the president," Tshisekedi told a news conference. "He is the candidate for president."