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Congo on Edge While Election Results Delayed

In the dusty markets of Goma, locals say they will personally reject election results that include a win for incumbent president Joseph Kabila, but they may not protest for fear of attack from armed troops.

With almost 90 percent of polling places reporting, Congolese President Joseph Kabila appears to have won another five years in office with nearly half the vote.

But the country will not know officially until Thursday due to a 48 hour delay in the release of final results.

Police in black body-armour, wielding AK-47s, are still stationed outside the local university here in Goma. A day earlier, they were standing at attention, eyes darting, waiting for signs of trouble. Today, they look bored and some lounge under trees.

December 6, the day the Democratic Republic of Congo was supposed to learn who would be their next president, has come and gone, and the security crisis this vast nation was bracing for is still pending.

Human Rights Watch says at least 18 people were killed and 100 injured in violence leading up to the November 28 vote.

Opposition leaders have promised mass protests if President Kabila is declared the winner. And many fear the entire nation could descend back into the conflict that has engulfed this land for decades.

Freddy Nguliko, Goma deputy secretary for the party of opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe.
Freddy Nguliko, Goma deputy secretary for the party of opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe.

Freddy Nguliko is the deputy secretary for the party of opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe. In preliminary results, he is third in the winner take all national race, but very popular locally. He says election fraud and bad counting practices are likely to produce results that don’t reflect the will of the people.

Nguliko says the president will have to become a dictator to rule the country without the support of the people. He blames the international community for witnessing the elections and urging calm, rather than a new vote. He says international observers seem to support the president, not peace.

Local leaders in support of Etienne Tshisekedi, the most popular opposition candidate of the 11-man race, say they have already concluded the vote was rigged and are prepared to take to the street at the orders of the man they call their ‘president.’ Tshisekedi currently trails Kabila with 33 percent of the vote.

In the markets in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, a troubled eastern province still reeling from war, sellers say they want to hear the results -- but only if the results are what they want. In this impoverished city, it is easy to find people on the street calling for change.

Fred Kagerwe, 25, who sells used cell phones from a rickety wooden stand, says the people of Goma are fed up.

“I need first of all peace in Congo. After peace, I need work. After that, we need to find good leadership who can help every people in Congo.”

Like his fellow sellers, Kagerwe says if Kabila is declared the winner, he will personally declare the election a fake. But when asked if he plans to protest the results in the streets, Kagerwe eyes a soldier, heavily armed and watching the roads for any sign of trouble.