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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi vowed to root out the corruption and impunity that has hindered the country since its independence from Belgium as the nation marked its 60th anniversary amid a global reckoning over racial inequality.

While the milestone was commemorated in Belgium with gestures of atonement, Congolese reflected on the struggles that have engulfed the nation in the decades since independence and how to move forward.

Among the statues being removed around the world as countries confront legacies of slavery and colonialism was one being taken down Tuesday in Belgium of King Leopold II, Congo’s brutal colonial ruler.

A letter sent to Congo’s current president stopped short of an official apology, but Belgium’s King Philippe conveyed his “deepest regrets” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” and the “suffering and humiliation” inflicted during the colonial era.

The vast, mineral-rich country in Central Africa suffered decades of oppression after it was annexed by Belgium in 1908. After independence in 1960, Congo soon fell under the repressive rule of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled for 32 years.

The first leader after Mobutu’s death was assassinated, and his son Joseph Kabila then took over and headed the country for 18 years.

Tshisekedi, whose father led Congo’s largest opposition party until his death, took office last year but only after long-delayed elections were finally held. In a televised speech late Monday, Tshisekedi pledged to root out impunity so that the country could move forward.

“From independence to the present day, the main effect of our political policy has been to dilute efficiency, to dilute responsibility and ultimately to do disservice,” the president said.

Because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday’s milestone took place without the fanfare and public commemorations that marked the 50th anniversary a decade earlier in Kinshasa. Congolese, though, still used the occasion to reflect on the challenges facing the country.

“Sixty years after independence, can we Congolese be proud of our country? I don’t think so,” political researcher Paulin Mbenza told The Associated Press.

“Congo can rise from its ashes … but this depends on the will of the politicians because they are more concerned with the personal interest than the general interest,” he said.

That criticism was echoed by Tapie Lutunu, a political analyst in Kinshasa.

“Education, employment, health, infrastructure — nothing works because of the poor management and mediocrity of the Congolese political class,” Lutunu said. “We need a new class of elites motivated by love of their country.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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New Minor Party Pushes for 'Fusion Voting' in New Mexico

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A political group that helped a slate of progressive-minded legislative candidates prevail in New Mexico's Democratic primary has registered as a political party.

The New Mexico Working Families Party on Thursday announced its certification by state election regulators as a minor political party, taking its place alongside the Green, Constitution and Better for America parties.

Party leaders said they hope to establish so-called fusion voting in which more than one political party can support a common candidate on the general election ballot.

They also want minor party members to be able to vote in major party primaries. The state operates a closed primary election system in which only registered major party members can vote.

Working Families Party state director Eric Griego said in a statement that the organization is dedicated to challenging candidates who are out of step with core progressive issues or beholden to corporate special interests.

The group helped upstart candidates defeat powerful incumbent Democrats in key leadership and committee posts including Sens. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, John Arthur Smith of Deming and Clemente Sanchez of Grants.

The Working Families Party backed successful Democratic primary challengers for Senate that including Leo Jaramillo of Espanola, Siah Hemphill Correa of Silver City, Pam Cordova of Belen, Neomi Martinez-Parra of Lordsburg and Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces.

Founded in 1998 in New York, the organization has branches and chapters in 15 states mostly in the eastern U.S.

Campaign finance disclosures show the local affiliate has spent more than $300,000 in the 2020 election cycle.

New Mexico has three major parties that appear on primary ballots — though Libertarian Party members do not hold any state elected office.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson's strong local showing as a presidential candidate in 2016 helped the Libertarian Party qualify as a major party.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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