Monday, August 14, 2006

DRC: Elections: Rising tensions (Update 10)

Anger in Congo as Kabila builds poll lead - Yahoo! News:

"KINSHASA (Reuters) - Hackles are rising in Congo's volatile capital Kinshasa as incumbent President Joseph Kabila builds a lead with results trickling in from the country's first free elections in more than four decades.

Electoral officials stress drawing a trend with so few votes counted is premature but their advice is being roundly ignored as Kabila stretches his lead over former rebel chief Jean-Pierre Bemba, possibly heading for a win in the first round.

The latest results on Sunday, from 65 of the 169 constituencies, gave Kabila some 48 percent of the vote while Bemba headed the field of 31 challengers with around 18 percent. A candidate needs over half the vote to win outright.

The independent electoral commission is due to announce provisional results on August 20 but Kabila's strong showing in his native Swahili-speaking east has already put people on edge in the Lingala-speaking capital where he is deeply unpopular.

'There was cheating on a huge scale. Why do you whites support Kabila?' asked Dokole Botonge, an unemployed Kinshasa resident in his 20s, voicing anger and disbelief at the initial trend with results from the capital still awaited.

Congo's July 30 elections -- meant to draw a line under a 1998-2003 war that has killed some four million people -- were overseen by over 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers, themselves backed by a 1,000-strong EU force in the capital.

"If on the 20th you tell us Kabila is president, we'll take to the streets. The EU force will have to come and kill us. Kabila will never be our president," Botonge said, adding he voted for Bemba simply because he spoke his language."

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