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DR Congo holds elections despite reports of violence

Police guard outside of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), on Nov. 28, 2011. DR Congo held presidential and legislative elections on Monday. A total of 11 candidates are running for the presidency. (Xinhua/Han Bing)

KINSHASA, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo held the presidential and legislative elections on Monday, despite reports of violence and delay of voting due to inadequate preparations.

The UN secretary general`s special representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Roger Meece, has expressed satisfaction with the polls.

He made the positive comments after visiting polling stations in the capital city Kinshasa.

He encouraged the Congolese people to go to the polls massively to choose the best leaders for the country.

The official urged the authority to ensure the security of voters and candidates and the post-election appeasement.

Polling stations will remain open until all voters have cast their ballots, said the rapporteur of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mathieau Mpita, on Monday.

There were polling stations where voting had not finished at 5: 00 p.m. (1600 GMT).

The polls were scheduled to open at 6:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and end at 5:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).

Officials attributed the delay or extension to the lack of electoral materials.

Meanwhile, a major contender in the presidential elections, Etienne Tshisekedi, has promised to respect the results.

The 79-year-old challenger to incumbent President Joseph Kabila in Monday`s race made the pledge after casting his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa.

"With the pressure of the international community, I believe that the operations of vote have been well unfolded and I will respect the results of the polls," he said in a statement.

Tshisekedi initially went to vote in a populous district in the east of the city, but changed the venue and cast his ballot in a school situated not far from his residence.

The change was apparently made to avoid incidents after police used tear gas to disperse a large crowd accompanying him along the original route. Police said they were just trying to maintain order at the polling station.

An opponent for about 30 years, Tshisekedi decided to participate in the current elections, the second since 2006, when he boycotted the first citing "irregularities."

The elections were held largely in calm on Monday in the presence of international observers and a 19,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the country once torn in civil wars, which ended in 2003.

Several people have been reportedly killed and dozens of others injured since election campaigns kicked off on Oct. 28.

At least five people were reportedly killed on the election day and some others injured including an observer.

A senior government official told the media that the first violence incident took place at 3:00 a.m. in Lubumbashi, DR Congo`s second biggest city, after armed men attacked a truck carrying ballot papers.

The government official said the army was called in to quell the attack and that one policeman was killed. The four other slain men were assailants.

By Monday afternoon, some polling stations did not open because of the delay in the delivery of voting materials, which was seen as a sign of poor preparation for the vote.

Earlier on Monday morning, angry residents set polling stations on fire and took off with ballots in Kananga town which is the headquarters of Kasai Occidental province.

The unrest began as the start of voting was delayed because ballots and poll materials had not reached the polling stations on time.

Still in the same town, an observer allied to the incumbent president`s party was beaten nearly to death by voters who suspected her of delivering ballots that were in favor of the outgoing president.

Francis Kalala, a journalist with a local newspaper "L`Observer, " said the condition of the observer, Gisele Ntumba, was critical and that she was taken to Kananga general hospital.

Automatic gunfire was also heard around midday in downtown Lubumbashi, causing panic in Njanja district.

In Monday`s presidential elections, a total of 11 candidates were fielded in for the presidency.

Candidates numbered 18,500 for the 500 seats in the National Assembly (parliament).

The country has registered 32 million eligible voters out of its population of 71 million.

The official results of the presidential and legislative elections are scheduled to be known on Dec. 6 and Jan. 13 respectively.

The country won independence from Belgium in 1960.


Date:2011-11-30 15:48:32     
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