By Vision Reporter
THE DR Congo president Joseph kabila was married to his long-time girlfriend, Marie Olive Lembe di Sita, at his riverside presidential palace in Kinshasa on Saturday.
The Roman Catholic ceremony, broadcast live by several television channels, began with a solemn mass celebrated by the archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Frederic Etsou, who gave the couple, dressed in white, the nuptial blessing.
Kabila, 35, and his 27-year-old bride were married in a civil ceremony on Friday by a magistrate of the Gombe commune.
Images of the ceremony broadcast on state television showed Kabila and his veiled bride walking past a military honor guard.
The guests at Saturdayâ€™s religious ceremony included Mojanku Gumbi, an adviser to South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Angolan foreign minister Joao Bernardo de Miranda and Senegalese political opposition leader, Moustapha Niasse.
After the ceremony, the head of the Protestant Christ Church of Congo, Monseigneur Pierre Marini Bodho, also blessed the couple.
Kabila and Disita, the daughter of a civil servant, have lived together for years and have a five-year-old girl, Sifa.
Kabila is a presidential candidate in the July 30 elections, the first free and democratic vote in the vast central African nation in more than four decades.
The 2,000 guests did not include Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader and now a bitter rival in the coming elections.
The build-up to the July 30 elections has already been marked by personal insults between politicians, intimidation of opposition candidates and attacks on the media.
Some people believe the election has also played a part in the timing of Kabilaâ€™s wedding.
Kabila, who lived in Uganda for years, and his father, fought to oust the late Mobutu Seseko, succeeded to power after his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001 by his own presidential bodyguards.
Laurent Kabila came to power with the help of Uganda after Kampala accused Mobutu of harbouring insurgents.
He was made president in 2003 at the start of a UN-organised transitional period that followed almost five years of war. Kabila is one of 33 candidates expected to run in July elections.
The mineral-rich nation is struggling to emerge from years of war that ended in 2002 with the creation of a transitional government the following year.