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Official Campaigning Begins Ahead of Congo’s Election

Supporters of Democratic Republic of Congo's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and allied parties rally demanding more transparency in the November 28 election preparation process, Kinshasa, October 13, 2011.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, official campaigning begins today (Friday), ahead of the November 28 general elections. Ten aspirants will be challenging incumbent Joseph Kabila for the presidency.

Information minister Lambert Mende says the government is reinforcing security for prospective voters by deploying five newly trained police regiments.

“Political parties are preparing very eager to start their campaign. Some of them have even started their campaign, despite warning from the electoral commission,” said Mende. “We are awaiting a peaceful campaign as everybody has declared their commitment to give to our people the opportunity of choosing their leaders peacefully.”

Some citizens have expressed concern about attacks from rebel groups during the campaign.

Observers also warn of the increasing potential for violence between supporters of political rivals in the next few weeks.

But Mende said that the government is working closely with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the African Union to ensure a peaceful electoral process.

“We have recruited new elements within the police [and] we have trained them and we are enjoying the cooperation from our partners in the U.N. [and] they are helping a lot by training our personnel,” said Mende. “We are ready.”

Congo has signed a memorandum of understanding with MONUSCO for it to provide civilian protection as well as support the electoral commission in organizing the vote.

In its pre-election report, U.S.-based Carter Center called on the electoral commission to take urgent steps in order to ensure the November vote is credible.

Some opposition parties echoed similar sentiments while cautioning the election could be rigged.

The Information Minister expressed confidence the election will be held as scheduled, despite concerns it could be delayed.