Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ballot-counting begins in presidential runoff

October 31, 2006

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— Rioters destroyed polling stations in eastern Congo on Monday and a revote was planned in one northern town after ballots were burned, yet much of this Central African country called the landmark presidential runoff a success as the colossal task of counting the election results began.

Sunday's tense balloting pitted President Joseph Kabila against former rebel chief Jean-Pierre Bemba in voting that many hoped would usher the country into democracy after more than 40 years of dictatorship and war.

But fears also were raised that it would ignite a return to war, four years after a 1998-2002 conflict that pulled in armies from more than a half-dozen African nations.

Mobs in the northeastern border town of Fataki destroyed 43 polling stations and the ballots stored inside after a soldier killed two electoral workers. U.N. spokesman Leocadio Salmeron said it was unclear what prompted the army sergeant to shoot, but said he appeared to be drunk. The soldier was arrested by police.

Both Kabila and Bemba have pledged to accept the results - an important pact given that fighting between their personal security forces in August as first-round results were released killed at least 23 people.

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