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DR Congo leader hails a new 'balance' in turbulent nation

The new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo asked for US assistance to help lift his vast country out of a decades-long crisis during a visit to Washington on Thursday.

Democratic Republic of Congo's president-elect Felix Tshisekedi. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - The new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo asked for US assistance to help lift his vast country out of a decades-long crisis during a visit to Washington on Thursday.

Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January in the vast country's first peaceful transition of power, talked of the new "balance" his election had brought to a nation "on the verge of collapse" under his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

"That's why I'm here: to ask the Democratic Republic of Congo's traditional partner, the United States, to help us maintain this fragile balance," he told a conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tshisekedi vowed to focus on "corruption, mismanagement, bad governance" and arbitrary arrests that had been the hallmark of the DRC's "dictatorial system."

According to Tshisekedi, the US is the "perfect partner" to contribute to his agenda for change, including military reforms, which will aim to attract new investors.

He urged Americans to see the DRC's huge potential, including its plentiful natural resources.

But he also had a warning on what he called the nascent "Islamist threat" in the historically tumultuous central African nation.

"This is becoming an international problem," he said, voicing concern that jihadists recently forced out of Iraq and Syria could gain a foothold among "desperate" youth in the DRC.

He had criticism too, cautioning against American sanctions targeting the head of his country's electoral commission.

Tshisekedi's election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud, though the international community quickly backed his mandate in an effort to avoid conflict.

Tshisekedi met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday and is due for talks Friday with White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, though no meetings are planned with President Donald Trump.

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