Daily News  :: Central Africa

Kabila wins DRC election

Published: 16-NOV-06

Kinshasa - The incumbent Joseph Kabila has been declared winner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's bitterly contested presidential elections by the country's Independent Electoral Commission.

Kabila, Africa's youngest head of state at 35, took 58.05 percent of the vote in the October 29 run-off, compared with 41.9 percent for his rival vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the commission has announced.

"Having taken the absolute majority of votes cast in the second round, Kabila Kabange Joseph is declared elected as president," announced CEI chief Apollinaire Malu Malu.

In a statement shortly after the announcement, Kabila called on his countrymen to demonstrate "brotherhood and tolerance" in the election aftermath.

Under electoral rules, the candidates have three days to challenge the provisional result at the Supreme Court, which was expected to formally declare the winner at the end of this month.

Kabila had earlier called for calm amid mounting fears of violence between the heavily armed rival camps in Kinshasa. Tensions have been running high in the capital after Bemba's side complained of "systematic errors" in the compiling of figures from around a country almost the size of Western Europe, but with few roads and ruined infrastructure. Calm after the elections would provide massive opportunities for investment.

Bemba's representative on the eight-member electoral commission, its vice-chairman Marie-Rose Mika, walked out before the end of the CEI's deliberations on Wednesday, CEI spokesman Delion Kimbulungu said.

In an apparent effort to calm tensions, UN special envoy William Swing, DRC Defence Minister Tharcisse Habarugira, the head of the UN peacekeeping forces deployed in the country and other top military and civilian officials gathered at Bemba's heavily-guarded residence before the result was announced.

After first-round results were released in August, fighting broke out in Kinshasa between Kabila's guard and troops on Bemba's side, claiming at least 23 lives. Four people have been killed in renewed clashes near Bemba's official residence on Saturday.

The elections were designed to put an end to a difficult transition to democracy which began in 2003 after a bitter regional conflict which drew the often corrupt armies of half a dozen neighbouring countries to the mineral rich country.

Kabila has pledged to install a coalition government if he won the election. Barring a legal setback, Kabila was due to be sworn-in on December 10 after victory in the first free elections in the former Zaire in more than four decades.

Kabila became president in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila, who had ousted the country's autocratic long-time ruler Mobutu Sese Seko to grab power himself in May 1997.

The international community, which provided almost all the $500mn cost of the presidential election, had appealed for calm in the run-up to the electoral commission's announcement.

The UN, the European Commission and the World Bank on Wednesday made a joint appeal to both camps not to be drawn into conflict and to accept the result.

"We are calling on DRC, and in particular on the two presidential candidates, to abstain from all provocation to avoid putting in doubt this vote in which the Congolese people have placed so much hope," said a joint statement issued in Brussels.

The turnout in the largely peaceful landmark election was 65.3 percent of some 25.4 million eligible voters a remarkable feat for the Central African country.

About 1 400 UN peacekeepers have been deployed in the capital in an effort to avert violence, while a back-up force of 1 000 troops have been stationed in neighbouring Gabon. Sapa-AFP

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