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Violence, Accusations Mar Congo Vote Counting


Rival camps in Sunday's post-war presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo are accusing each other of cheating, while an attack on election workers marred the start of vote counting in the volatile east.

U.N. officials say a soldier was arrested after killing two election officials in the town of Fataki, north of the city of Bunia. They said it appeared the soldier was drunk.

Subsequent rioting destroyed voting materials from Sunday's vote.

Meanwhile, each camp in the presidential election accused the other side of cheating. The camp of Vice President and former rebel Jean Pierre Bemba accused the side of transitional President and second round opponent Joseph Kabila of trying to buy votes and using pre-marked ballots throughout the country.

Mr. Kabila's camp accused Bemba supporters of setting up what it called a sophisticated network of cheating in its western and central strongholds without giving exact details.

In Kinshasa, supporters reflected this mistrust, while they looked at published results at their voting centers. A Bemba supporter accused Mr. Kabila of being a serial cheater.

Another Bemba supporter says he does not understand why television stations close to the Vice President have gone off the air.

One of them lost its signal prior to the election during a report alleging Mr. Kabila was not Congolese. The other went dark late Sunday during a report on alleged cheating. He said the truth is being stamped out.

But, at the polling place, right next to the two Bemba supporters, was also a Kabila supporter, wearing his trademark yellow. He said both candidates are afraid they will lose and maybe that is why there is so much nervousness.

Both camps have loyal troops still remaining outside the peace disarmament process.

Sunday, the two sides signed an agreement pledging to renounce violence and guaranteeing the security of the loser. But similar agreements did not prevent deadly violence in August, following a slow release of first round results.

Election officials say they are going much faster for this second round, due to more experience and also lower turnout, mainly in the rain-soaked west.

Officials from the rival camps say they expect to have a general idea of final results through their own party officials by late Monday, but that they will have to wait before declaring victory until results are certified in mid to late November.

Voting in the northwest province of Equateur marred by violence is scheduled to take place again Tuesday, while election officials are also investigating the latest violence in the Bunia region, and whether a re-vote will be needed there as well. In other eastern areas, militias and soldiers set up barricades, asking money for passage, and discouraging many would-be voters.

Ballots were also cast in provincial elections, in a final cycle of voting, paid for by the international community, aimed at ending years of misrule and conflict in the vast mineral-rich Congo.

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