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Congolese Presidential Candidates Plan Rival Rallies in Kinshasa


Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission workers wait to load planes and helicopters with
election related equipment and ballots at Kinshasa Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Friday Nov. 25, 2011.

Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission workers wait to load planes and helicopters with election related equipment and ballots at Kinshasa Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday Nov. 25, 2011.

The top two presidential candidates in the Democratic Republic of Congo are planning competing rallies in the capital Saturday. There is concern that the rallies could spark violence between supporters of the rival candidates.

Closing out their campaigns ahead of Monday's vote, the top two presidential candidates plan to rally supporters at adjacent sites in the heart of the capital.

Electoral observer David Pottie from the U.S.-based Carter Center says Saturday's competing rallies are a climactic moment in this campaign.

“Here in Kinshasa there is the possibility of a clash between the two main candidates, or those who are perceived as the two main candidates. The incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, and one of the main opposition challengers, Etienne Tshisekedi, have planned big rallies very near to one another in the city, so there are concerns that there could be fights breaking out,” Pottie said.

It is the proximity of these events that raises the greatest concern about possible violence.

Both men are scheduled to arrive at Kinshasa's airport within an hour of each other, and both plan large processions of supporters into town.

President Kabila's rally is planned for the Stade des Martyrs. Tshisekedi's rally is planned for the Palais du Peuple, less than 500 meters away.

In the run-up to this vote, Tshisekedi and Kabila supporters have clashed repeatedly both here in the capital and in Congo's second-largest city, Lubumbashi.

The Kabila government says Tshisekedi has committed treason by proclaiming himself president before a single ballot has been cast. Tshisekedi says security forces are targeting his supporters to intimidate them ahead of the poll.

There is no second-round of balloting this time in Congo, so whoever gets the most votes on Monday wins.

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