Story highlights

Protesters want President Obama to "help restore the leadership the Congo needs"

President Kabila was inaugurated in December after a contested election

Security forces have killed more than 24 people since the result, a rights group says

Washington CNN  — 

Protesters rallied in Washington on Saturday to raise awareness of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo following contested elections there in November.

They said they traveled from 25 states to deliver an urgent message to U.S. President Barack Obama.

“We need President Obama to help restore the leadership the Congo needs,” said George Alula, president of the Movement of the Congolese Unity. He urged the international community to recognize opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi as the election’s legitimate winner.

Congo’s highest court struck down a lawsuit challenging the election results in December, declaring incumbent Joseph Kabila the winner.

“We are frustrated because the Congolese people gave their voice in the November elections … We know that the election organized in Congo was fraudulent,” said Alula.

International and national election observers have strongly questioned the veracity of the results, citing a lack of credibility and transparency.

Late last month, Human Rights Watch said security forces have killed more than 24 people and arbitrarily detained dozens more since Kabila was declared the winner.

Ben Kalala, who returned from Kinshasa just a few days ago and is president of the Congolese Foundation of America, accused the Congolese president of intimidating citizens and denying them their political voice.

“You see the military in cities ready to kill – like the country is at war,” he said.

The November elections were only the second democratic vote in the country since the end of its civil war in 2003.

The 2006 election, which brought Kabila to power, was declared largely free and fair by international observers.