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March 29, 2014

Congolese refugee death toll climbs

Congolese refugee death toll climbs – Wikinews, the free news source

Congolese refugee death toll climbs

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Other stories from the DRC
  • 29 March 2014: Congolese refugee death toll climbs
  • 18 March 2012: FA Cup game abandoned after Fabrice Muamba collapses on pitch
  • 27 June 2011: Funeral held for former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba
  • 5 May 2011: DR Congo transport minister sacked after numerous boat accidents
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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government has confirmed that at least 251 Congolese refugees died after their boat capsized on Lake Albert on Saturday, en-route from Uganda.

NASA satellite image of Lake Albert showing the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda
Image: Slawojar.

Spokesman for the government, Lambert Mende, made the statement on Thursday: “It is with deep sorrow that we confirm the death of 251 of our compatriots who had boarded the boat from the Ugandan side of Lake Albert”.

Cquote1.svg It is with deep sorrow that we confirm the death of 251 of our compatriots who had boarded the boat from the Ugandan side of Lake Albert. Cquote2.svg

Lambert Mende

President Joseph Kabila declared three days of national mourning, which began on Thursday, described by Mende as a display of compassion and solidarity with the people of Congo.

The refugees were reportedly returning to the DRC, leaving Uganda voluntarily.

Mende has claimed this is due to the “poor quality of welcome to which they were subjected,” while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recently recorded an increase in Congolese refugees spontaneously returning to the DRC, following a military victory over rebels in the nation’s east last November.

Tragedy struck the overcrowded vessel, when, as latest reports claim, it was carrying around three hundred people.

Two boats were attempting to cross Lake Albert from the Hoima district on the Ugandan shore.

The waterway is known to be dangerous when the weather is rough, and combined with a lack of life-jackets and a general inability of passengers to swim, incidents like this often lead to high body counts. Days before, a campaign had been launched by the DRC to enforce wearing lifejackets aboard all vessels in the nation’s waterways.

Since Saturday, the death toll has continued to climb, it was initially reported that twenty had died. On Monday, UNHCR received information from authorities that 41 people had been rescued and 98 bodies recovered. This number climbed again by Tuesday – with reports stating 107 had died, including 57 children.

The survivors were taken to the Bundibugyo district, in the north-west of Uganda, where UNHCR and the Ugandan government are providing help, including psycho-social support. Relatives of the deceased are identifying family members at the district hospital.

UNHCR and the Ugandan government are assisting in the transport of the bodies back to the DRC, and have established an information and response point for relatives of the survivors. Julian Paluku, governor of the North Kivu district has said the recovery of bodies will continue.

Reportedly, the refugees had originally fled the DRC after a July 2013 attack on the Kamango region to the east-northeast of the capital, Kinshasa.



Related news

  • “DR Congo transport minister sacked after numerous boat accidents” — Wikinews, May 5, 2011
  • “Up to 140 feared dead as boat sinks in DR Congo” — Wikinews, July 30, 2010
  • Boat in DR Congo capsizes, 80 feared dead” — Wikinews, May 8, 2010

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October 21, 2007

Thousands flee renewed violence in Congo

Thousands flee renewed violence in Congo

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

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Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thousands of civilians fled their homes on Saturday amid fierce fighting between local militias and Tutsi-dominated rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the U.N. peacekeeping mission there.

Congolese Army Colonel Delphin Kahimbi said that “very violent attacks” had been reported, and that the fighting was between local militia known as Mai-Mai and rebels loyal to renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda. Major P.K. Tiwari, a military spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, said the fighting “started early this morning and ended late this afternoon.” Tiwari said it was not clear who had attacked first.

Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, a spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, described the suffering of civilians caught in the fighting as “unbearable”. “What I saw was horrendous. It was raining. They didn’t know where to go. Three women gave birth while they were fleeing,” she said. “The humanitarian consequences of whatever is happening there are very serious.”

Since the beginning of the year, 370,000 people have already fled their homes in the province of Nord-Kivu amid fighting between Congo’s army, Rwandan Hutu rebels, and rebels loyal to Nkunda. Nkunda accuses Congo’s army of supporting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a primarily Hutu rebel group that includes soldiers responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The Congolese army consistently denies this charge.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila said the army had been authorized to prepare military operations to disarm Nkunda’s rebels, of which there are approximately 5,000. Kabila has ruled out the possibility of negotiating with Nkunda.



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October 6, 2007

Dozens killed in Congo plane crash, transport minister fired

Dozens killed in Congo plane crash, transport minister fired

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Antonov An-26.

More than 50 people have been killed after a plane crashed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing president Joseph Kabila to fire his transport minister.

The Russian-built Antonov An-26 twin-turboprop cargo plane went down into a market in the African nation’s capital, Kinshasa, killing 51 and injuring at least 25, mostly on the ground. Of the plane’s crew, only the Congolese flight engineer survived the accident.

President Joseph Kabila, photographed in 2003.

The Congolese air safety record is one of the worst in the world, and this is the latest and deadliest in a string of recent aviation accidents and incidents. According to presidential spokesman Kudura Kasongo, the reason behind the sacking of transport minister Remy Henri Kuseyo Gatanga is “for being incapable of organising the aviation sector”.

Transport Minister Rémy Kuseyo had previously said the aircraft should never have taken off due to a ban imposed three weeks ago on the use of Antonov aircraft in the country due to safety concerns. He feels his dismissal is unjust, saying “Measures had been taken… “I had taken measures, but I am not the one who was to have put the measures in place on the ground.”

Saleh Kinyongo of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry revised previous information that the entire flight crew had been killed, saying to reporters “We now know there is a survivor in hospital. He’s the mechanic (of the plane)… He’s alive and well. He’s talking and he’s even been on TV.” His name was given as Dede Ngama and he is receiving treatment at the Roi Baudouin hospital in Kinshasa. Previously, Russia’s foreign ministry had reported that all three of the flight crew were Russian nationals and were killed in the crash. This has, however, been confirmed as accurate for the pilot and co-pilot.

It is known that shortly after takeoff, the plane experienced technical difficulties and initiated fuel dumping, then contacted air traffic control to request an emergency landing. Aircraft often dump fuel prior to emergency landings shortly after takeoff, as the aircraft are too heavy to land safely with full fuel loads. However, after about ten minutes, the plane suddenly plunged down into a market and houses in a residential area. The Russian Foreign ministry reported that upon takeoff the plane lost a propeller, and that a wing sheared off when the plane impacted a bank of trees.

An emergency meeting of Congo’s cabinet was held yesterday to investigate how existing air safety regulations could be improved, including possibilities of better inspections and tougher penalties for non-conformers.

The crash site has proved difficult to secure from onlookers and petty criminals. Local police have already arrested several people attempting to steal scrap metal, engine parts and any other valuables from the fire-scorched wreckage.

The crash has provoked national outrage, with local newspapers using headlines such as “Another flying coffin kills again,” and “Congo’s killer skies,”. The government had promised to improve poor safety standards.

The plane belonged to Africa One, but had been leased to Manilla Airlift. The aircraft had undergone a safety inspection prior to it’s departure from nearby Ndjili international airport.

The International Air Transport Association has described Congo’s aviation safety record as ‘an embarrassment’, while all Congolese airlines except Hewa Bora Airways are on the List of air carriers banned in the EU.



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September 16, 2007

Health organisations respond to Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Health organisations respond to Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Location of DRC within Africa.
Image: Rei-artur..

The World Health Organization (WHO), non-governmental aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sent experts to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to assist local health authorities with a recent outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Kasai Occidental province of DRC. The illness had been unidentified until laboratory test results confirmed the presence of the virus.

DRC President Joseph Kabila described the situation as being contained. “The village of Kampungu has been quarantined to prevent population movement towards Kananga,” Kabila said on Thursday. Kananga is the provincial capital. “The situation is at the moment, I cannot say under control, but at least the problem has been contained very well in the area,” he continued. “There is no risk that the whole country will be affected.”

WHO is working closely with officials from the DRC Ministry of Health and MSF to improve local facilities in order to better contain the virus. A mobile field laboratory is to be established in order to provide rapid sample analysis and, subsequently, diagnosis of patients. There are concurrent outbreaks of other diseases, such as dysentery (Shigellosis), that have been complicating diagnoses and need to be identified as well.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever generates mortality rates in the range of 50 to 90 percent, typically. There is currently no vaccine or effective treatment for Ebola. WHO describes the symptoms of Ebola as being “characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings show low counts of white blood cells and platelets as well as elevated liver enzymes.”

MSF, who now have 14 experts in DRC, arranged for eighteen tons of supplies, such as medical and sanitation material, to be delivered to the province of West Kasai. MSF indicated that the transportation of supplies from the airport to the affected areas has been a challenge, due to poor road conditions. It has taken up to three days to travel the 250 km to the outbreak area from the provincial capital city, Kananga.

A patient (non-Ebola) in a public hospital in DRC, May 2006.
Image: IRIN.

MSF experts will provide advice on sanitary burial procedures, which would include the use of body bags and spraying. Both the WHO and MSF will disseminate information to the local population regarding the transmission of the virus and measures that could be taken to reduce the spread of the disease.

The MSF emergency team coordinator in Kampungu, Rosa Crestani, described the isolation ward set up at Kampungu’s health centre. “Our isolation centre is basically divided in three parts. One is completely isolated, where the sick patients are; another is where the staff dresses with the complete protection uniform and then undresses after having been in contact with the patients; and the third part is a space for disinfection in between,” said Crestani. “In the coming days, we will decide with the Ministry of Health and the WHO whether we set up isolation structures in other locations of the health zone.”

Neighbouring countries, such as Rwanda and Zambia have issued alerts to their citizens, warning of travel to and from DRC. Zambian Health Minister Brian Chituwo stated that all people coming into Zambia from DRC will be watched for symptoms of Ebola for up to eight hours. Chituwo noted, however that it would be unlikely for an infected person to travel into the country, as the time between onset and death is very rapid and that the symptoms are severe.

There has been a minimum of 395 people affected by haemorrhagic fever, including 160 deaths, in DRC in the past few months. Since arriving in Kampungu in early September, MSF have seen 25 patients admitted with suspected Ebola haemorrhagic fever, of which eight have died.

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  • “WHO investigates outbreak of unidentified illness in Democratic Republic of the Congo” — Wikinews, September 2, 2007

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November 16, 2006

Joseph Kabila declared winner of Congo Presidential election

Joseph Kabila declared winner of Congo Presidential election

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when meeting with United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon in 2003.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila has been declared the winner of the 2006 Presidential elections by the Independent Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chairperson of the electoral commission, Apollinaire Malu Malu, announced that Kabila polled 58 percent of the vote to his rival Jean-Pierre Bemba’s 42 percent, in the run-off vote held on October 29.

Kabila has called for calm following the announcement by the election commission.

Bemba has released a statement saying he does not accept the declared election result. Bemba and his supporters have previously disputed the provisional results announced by the commission.

Kabila is the world’s youngest head of state, getting the title as leader of Congo in 2001, after his father, Laurent-Desiré Kabila was assassinated in 2001.

Election officials have rejected claims of fraud. International observers monitoring the polls have said that despite some problems, the polling was largely free and fair.

Kinshasa is tense amidst fears that violence between the two leaders’ armed supporters may break out. The U.N. peacekeeping force has stepped up security, deploying tanks on the streets of the capital.

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  • “Voting ends in landmark Congo election” — Wikinews, October 30, 2006

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October 30, 2006

Voting ends in landmark Congo election

Voting ends in landmark Congo election – Wikinews, the free news source

Voting ends in landmark Congo election

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Monday, October 30, 2006

The final round of voting has ended in the first free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in over forty years.

The runoff is between incumbent President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who led a field of 33 candidates in the first round of polling held on July 30, but failed to achieve the required majority vote. The voting has been largely peaceful, though isolated incidents of violence and voting fraud have been reported.

Contestants Bemba (left) and Kabila, August 2006.
Credit: MONUC/Myiram Asmani/IRIN

Jean-Pierre Bemba Joseph Kabila
44 years old 35 years old
One of four Vice Presidents President
leads Movement for the Liberation of Congo leads People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy
polled 20% of vote in first round polled 44.8% in first round
Main support base in western Congo Main support base in eastern Swahili-speaking Congo
son of a prominent businessman, who was close to Mobutu Sese Seko. backed by Ugandan army during the war. retains considerable business interests. son of former President Laurent Kabila, grew up abroad, received wartime backing from Rwanda.

Polling day

Voting was largely peaceful, with isolated incidents of violence in the north-east. Two people were reported killed amidst protests over alleged irregularities in polling. Turnout is expected to be lower than in the last round.

Thunderstorms and a five-hour spell of rain dampened early morning voting in the western Bas Congo province and the capital Kinshasa.

Bemba supporters protested against alleged ballot-stuffing in Lisala, and looted polling stations and burnt ballot boxes in Bumba. Two people were reported killed and four others injured when “naval forces” and police fired on the protesters.

A Human Rights Watch observer estimated that between 15 to 25 thousand people were prevented from voting by Congolese army troops, who blockaded roads and demanded money from voters going to the polls, in the north-eastern Ituri district.

Polling was open between 6:00 a.m. local time and 5:00 p.m. (0500 GMT to 1600 GMT) in the west, and one hour earlier in the east. Polling was extended beyond the closing time in some areas.

80,000 police personnel and 17,000 U.N. peace-keepers backed by 2,000 E.U. troops were deployed to secure the polling. The peace-keepers staged “flag-marches” in Kinshasa and other cities.

Over 1,000 international and 40,000 Congolese observers monitored the elections in the 50,045 polling stations. Counting is to begin immediately, but provisional results are not expected before November 19.

Kinshasa was reported as “tense”, with over 5,000 armed supporters of Kabila and 600 fighters loyal to Bemba reportedly present in the capital. Both Kabila and Bemba voted in Kinshasa, but did not speak to reporters. A joint statement issued by their parties called for people to vote “in a calm, orderly and peaceful manner”.

Transition from war

Mineral rich Congo has remained largely undeveloped, despite possessing rich reserves of gold, diamonds, coltan and Uranium.

Following independence from Belgium, Congo underwent a turbulent political history, enduring a 32-year dictatorship under Mobutu Sese Seko. The 1994 Rwandan genocide sparked strife in neighbouring Congo, and Sese Seko was overthrown by Laurent Kabila in the First Congo War.

Kabila was challenged by Rwanda and Uganda backed rebels, but drew on support from troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan. The resulting Second Congo War, the deadliest conflict since the Second World War, killed an estimated four million people and displaced another five million.

A peace accord was signed in 2002 and a transitional government set up, with Joseph Kabila as President and two of the rebel leaders, including Bemba as Vice Presidents. A new constitution was approved by referendum held in February this year and the first multi-party elections began on July 30, 2006.

A UN peace-keeping force, MUNOC has been deployed in Congo since 2000 and was charged with keeping security during the elections. The elections, funded by $460 million of international aid, are conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission.

Kabila has won the support of third and fourth placed candidates, Antoine Gizenga and Nzanga Mobutu – the son of Mobutu Sese Seko, following the first round of elections. Clashes between Kabila and Bemba supporters have left at least 23 people dead, following the announcement of the results of the last round of elections.

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August 26, 2006

Congo electoral commissioner condemns Kinshasha clashes

Congo electoral commissioner condemns Kinshasha clashes

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Nearly a week after the announcement of provisional election results in the Democratic Republic of Congo sparked violence across the capital Kinshasa, the country’s Electoral Commissioner has spoken out to halt clashes.

In an interview with journalists associated with the UN mission in Congo, Independent Electoral Commission President, Fr Malu Malu called for an end to gun battles between forces loyal to two presidential candidates.

“It cannot be accepted, and any Congolese in his or her right mind could not consider that what happened was normal,” he said, “The country and the Congolese people have expressed their will in the clearest possible way, and their choice needs to be accepted.”

Mr. Malu Malu also added that if calm returned to Kinshasha this weekend, his commission would slowly begin to announce other election results, but added that security was essential for this to happen. “All of us – the organisers of the elections, the voters, candidates, observers, and our friends who support the electoral process – all of us have a need for security, and we will not tolerate insecurity. I believe security is an issue of shared responsibility which is demanded of all of us” he said.

Meanwhile, the incumbent government has been counting the cost of this week’s violence. It is now believed around 43 people have been killed in clashes since Sunday, with many bodies still lying in the streets. The dead include 12 policemen and 4 civilians.

Violence began after provisional results were announced for July’s landmark elections last Sunday, and several gunfights took place across the capital.

Violence broke out around the house of one of the main presidential contenders, Jean-Pierre Bemba on Monday. As Bemba was meeting with U.N. officials and ambassadors, troops loyal to the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, opened fire around Bemba’s villa, forcing 14 ambassadors to flee for cover.

UN troops soon took over control in the city, but sporadic clashes continued through Tuesday. The streets have become deserted according to journalists in Kinshasa.

A fragile truce was declared on Tuesday as both Kabila and Bemba agreed to withdraw their forces from the city. The largest UN peacekeeping force in the world is currently trying to maintain the peace, which analysts fear may not last.

“The situation is still very tense,” one diplomat told Reuters, “there are too many nervous men wandering around with guns, but we have moved on from the clashes earlier this week.”

Electoral divide

Vote result map with Kabila’s support is in red, Bemba’s in blue, Gizenga’s in green.

Hopes were high that elections in the Democratic Republic – the first since 1961 – would mark a new start for the massive country. The initial results, however, revealed marked divisions among the population.

The current president, Joseph Kabila, holds the lead with 44.81% of the vote, more than twice the general support of Bemba. Kabila’s support though comes solely from the eastern provinces in the country. In western Kinshasha, Kabila holds just 13% of the vote, and in the west and north of the country his strength is minimal.

A presidential run-off between Kabila and Bemba is set for the 29th October.

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August 22, 2006

Violence in Congo after first round election results are announced

Violence in Congo after first round election results are announced

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
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Vote result map with Kabila’s support is in red, Bemba’s in blue, Gizenga’s in green.

There have been three days of violent clashes in Kinshasa between supporters of Jean-Pierre Bemba and incumbent Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila following the release of results from the first round of Congo’s elections. The two presidential candidates will face each other in a run off election October 29th after the first round of votes, July 30th, failed to produce a victor. The results were announced on Sunday with Kabila received 45% of the vote, short of the absolute majority required to avoid a run-off, while Bemba gained 20% and Antoine Gizenga won 13%. Bemba’s support is concentrated in the western provinces of the country while Kabila’s support is concentrated in the east.

Bemba’s supporters claim that Kabila’s presidential guard is attacking Bemba’s house. Most downtown streets are deserted and shops closed as people stay in their homes to avoid the sporadic fighting which left five people dead on Sunday.

Kabila’s rivals, including Bemba, claim there was widespread fraud in the elections.

400 European Union peacekeepers from the Netherlands and Germany currently stationed in neighbouring Gabon are flying into the capital to quell the fighting. Spanish EU troops and 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers are already in the capital.

The June 30 election was the first democratic vote to be held in the Congo since it gained independence in 1960 and occurs following the official end of five years of conflict.

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July 29, 2006

Campaigning ends in landmark Congo elections

Campaigning ends in landmark Congo elections

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Map of the Democratic Republc of Congo

The month long election campaign in the run up to this weekend’s elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo has ended, with a one day break before voting can begin Sunday.

The fiercely fought campaign began on June 29th and involved no less than 9,707 parliamentary candidates and 33 presidential candidates. Canvassing ended yesterday with a mass rally in support of the current president Joseph Kabila.

Kabila, who became the youngest head of state in Africa in 2001, used his final speech before voting to claim credit for taking the D.R. Congo to its first democratic elections in over 40 years. “I can say to you without false modesty: mission accomplished” he told crowds of around 50,000 on Friday, “We’ve reunited and pacified the country. It is also a message of hope, and for peace and development and security after the polls.”

The international community is taking a keen interest in the elections — the first since 1961. However, the July campaign has been marred by violence and accusations of fraud on all sides.

International observers, such as the Carter Centre, expressed concern that the incumbent President’s domination of the media would undermine the campaign. Several hundred people protested at alleged irregularities in the polls on the 18th of July, which ended in 7 people being killed in police clashes. One candidate has also fled to Uganda after violence.

This Thursday, 6 people were killed in election related incidents in the capital, Kinshasa, and yesterday, Kabila’s presidential guards killed an opposition candidate’s bodyguard in a gunfight.

The U.N. has deployed its largest ever peacekeeping force — 17,000 — to monitor the elections, costing over $460 million. Despite troubles, the deputy U.N. representative in the country, Ross Mountain, said the Democratic Republic is ready for tomorrow’s polls.

50,000 polling stations have been set up around the country, for the 25.6 million voters, with over 60,000 Congolese police and 1,700 international observers in place to monitor voting.

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June 29, 2006

Campaigning begins for groundbreaking Congo elections

Campaigning begins for groundbreaking Congo elections

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Over 200 parties are gearing up to begin a month of campaigning across the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of voting at the end of July.

At midnight on June 29, canvassing can officially begin across the country, in the first open elections since the country gained independence in 1961. Polls were originally due to take place last year but were delayed twice by the interim government.

The international community is taking a keen interest in events, many with a hopeful belief that the elections will end nearly a decade of violence in the country. The South African government announced earlier today that they hoped the ballot would “mark the culmination of over ten years of peace efforts by the people of the DRC.”

However some are concerned that despite the presence of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) the campaigning would still not be fair. More than 200 parties are plying for votes, but only a few have enough money to target the mass media. The current President, Joseph Kabila has a monopoly on the state media, according to the BBC, and in over a third of constituencies, there is only one candidate.

The UN mission in the country, Monuc, has been monitoring the peace during the transitional period since war officially ended 3 years ago. In a statement today they said they demanded that “the electoral campaign takes place in a calm, serene and constructive spirit.”

A key area will be the fragile eastern parts of the country still recovering from the long war with Rwanda. Yesterday three people died in the eastern town of Goma as the roof of an aircraft hanger collapsed under the weight of hundreds of Kabila supports who had gathered to see the interim president, and likely winner of next months polls.

Voting itself is due to begin on July 29.

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