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Registering Congolese Voters Poses Challenges


Some three million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) crumbling capital, Kinshasa, have registered to vote in elections next years. Officials say the process has gone well, so far.

But they also acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead in registering another 25 million voters across the vast African country, where there are few roads and fighting continues, two years after the end of the war. The daunting challenge of registering voters for an election that is meant to put an end to decades of dictatorship and years of war and chaos is under way and some three million residents of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, have signed up for the voter register.

Election officials and diplomats say they are happy with the way the process has gone so far. The machines are working, registration is being carried out peacefully and Congolese are turning out in large numbers to be able to vote in polls, rescheduled for next year.

The elections were due to take place by the end of June this year, but squabbles among the former belligerents, continuing violence in the east, and the logistical challenge of organizing elections in a country the size of Western Europe have delayed the process. With registration closed in Kinshasa, the UN peacekeeping mission has now begun airlifting officials and the high tech registration centers into the more remote provinces where millions will have to travel by river and through the bush to collect voter cards.

Father Apollinaire Malu Malu, the president of the independent electoral commission, conceded that there had been some cases of foreigners registering and Congolese signing up more than once, but the cases were being investigated.

More of a challenge, he said, would be the logistical and security situation in the east, where, two years after the war officially ended, roads have disappeared into the bush and armed groups roam despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers. While expressing their satisfaction with the process, diplomats warn that the complicated mix of ethnic groups and nationalities in the volatile east, where Congo shares a border with former invaders Rwanda and Uganda, will have to be monitored.

Presidential, parliamentary and local elections are the cornerstone of a string of peace deals that ended Congo's five year war, a conflict that was dubbed Africa's World War, sucked in six countries and has killed nearly four million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

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