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Congolese Anti-Vote Militants Clash With Police


Demonstrators opposed to Sunday's post-war election in the Democratic Republic of Congo have clashed with police, but others supporting one of the more than 30 presidential candidates marched peacefully.

Thousands took to the streets on the main highway to Kinshasa's airport from nearby neighborhoods, chanting they wanted freedom, and the postponement of Sunday's election.

Most of them were supporters of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who is boycotting the process, because he says, the voting as it is organized, is not fair.

Wielding long wooden sticks they tore down several posters of candidate and President Joseph Kabila, the son of the former slain coup leader, Laurent Desire Kabila. He took power after his father was assassinated in 2001. He was kept in the presidency through peace deals that effectively ended Congo's devastating war.

One of the protesters explained they want consultations to be held with all leading politicians to better prepare a free and fair election.

Another explained the way the election is being organized, it seems Mr. Kabila's victory is unavoidable.

"I do not like Mr. Joseph. I do not like him," the protester said. "I refuse that because I am suffering. I am not studying. I do not feel good."

Protesters also said Mr. Kabila would perpetuate Congo's corrupt history of conniving with outside interests to benefit from the country's mineral riches.

Newly-trained police in riot gear using tear gas, batons and throwing back rocks prevented the protesters from advancing toward the city center as they had planned.

There a much more peaceful march took place in favor of the oldest candidate, 80-year-old Antoine Gizenga.

He was close to the country's independence Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who was assassinated less than one year later in 1961.

One supporter gave other reasons for liking Gizenga.

"I like him because of his love with the people," he explained. "Secondly he has gotten more time to learn about the history of this country and thirdly according to his age he can be the one who will make all the people get around one table. He will not divide people."

He also said those marching against the vote, should think twice, seize the opportunity and vote for Gizenga.

Another main candidate is former Uganda-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is currently a vice president in the power-sharing government.

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