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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