There is tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of tomorrow’s historic election. Observers are concerned about mounting violence as the country prepares for the second round of its first fully democratic poll since independence in 1960. In the capital Kinshasa, rival supporters were only stopped from fighting thanks to a the presence of riot police.
John Stremlau of the Carter Foundation, overseeing the election, is keeping his fingers crossed for a clean vote. “No election is ever perfect, and this one had a lot of challenges in the last round. We’re just hoping that the winner is generous to the loser and the loser accepts the results with equanimity and that we can move forward.”
Much of the violence has occurred outside Kinshasa. An ally of incumbent President Joseph Kabila had to be freed by UN troops in Gbadolite on the northern border on Friday. He was at a radio station surrounded by Kabila’s second-round rival Jean-Pierre Bemba after a gun battle that killed at least four people.
With more than 17,000 troops on the ground, this is the UN’s biggest and most expensive peacekeeping force. Hundreds of EU troops are also in place for tomorrow’s ballot.