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German Soldiers Contribute to Peaceful Elections in DR Congo

DW staff (als)
July 31, 2006

Germany's Albrecht Conze, the political director of the UN mission in DR Congo, said Sunday's election was "surprisingly peaceful." Thousands of UN troops, including German soldiers, protected election observers.

Germany is leading the EU peacekeeping mission in CongoImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) began its long wait Monday for results from the weekend's historic multi-party elections likely to see incumbent President Joseph Kabila win a mandate to lead the embattled central African country.

The German Albrecht Conze, United Nations deputy chief of political affairs and head of the UN mission in Congo, said Sunday was "a day of rejoicing" for the Congolese.

He also said initial estimates show that voter participation was high and that UN soldiers there to keep the peace were not forced to intervene. German Bundeswehr Lieutenant Colonel Peter Fuss said from Congo's capital Kinshasa that -- through its presence -- "the Bundeswehr contributed to the quiet and peaceful elections."

Sunday's election saw the start of the four-month mandate of 2,000 European Union soldiers, 780 of whom are Germans, in Congo. The Bundeswehr has 280 soldiers are stationed directly in Kinshasa while the other 500 are in neighboring Gabon. They were on call should violence have threatened UN observers.

Congolese walked miles to cast their vote

EU Soldat in Kongo
Some 17,000 UN soldiers are also stationed in the regionImage: AP

On the weekend, millions of people from across the vast central African country, spanning an area the size of western Europe, walked through former war zones to cast ballots for the first time in their lives. They said it was their only hope to finally end fighting and more than 40 years of misrule.

They could choose from 33 different presidential candidates and hundreds of hopefuls on the parliamentary list.

Ballot counting began immediately after the 50,000 polling stations across the country closed Sunday evening. The results of the presidential race are expected on Aug. 31, while lawmakers elected to a 500-seat parliament will be named as the tallies come in from around the country.

If no presidential candidate takes at least 50 percent of the vote outright, a second run-off round will be held on Oct. 29, the electoral commission said late Sunday.

Kongo - Frauen und Kinder
The Congolese have faced the chaos of years of civil warImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The United Nations has called on the Congolese to accept the outcome of the vote, the first multi-party ballot since independence from Belgium in 1960, amid fears that the losers will take up arms.

Voting to continue on Monday in Kasai region due to minor violence

Minor violence occurred in the central diamond capital of Mbuji-Mayi, the stronghold of an opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, who boycotted the vote. Three people were injured after youths set fire to a voting station.

Wahlen in Kongo Albrecht Conze
Albrecht Conze says EU mandate could be longer with a second electionImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

About 50 other offices were attacked in the central Kasai region, but UN envoy Ross Mountain said that "even if there were problems here and there, there has been a massive turnout in Kinshasa and the rest of the country. It is a success for the Congolese people."

Election officials said the vote would continue on Monday in Kasai in order "not to penalize" locals for the violence there.

The international community has funded the elections with almost $500 million (393.7 million euros).

The country has vast natural wealth, including diamonds and minerals, which have, however, routinely been looted. The looting and decades of dictatorship have sent the country into extreme poverty.

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