Congo waits for election result that could trigger new war

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The Independent Online

As torrential rain fell on Kinshasa's rubbish-strewn streets, turning dirt tracks into muddy streams, 35-year-old Zinga repeatedly slapped his hand against his chest. "I am ready to sacrifice myself," he said. "If Kabila is president I will fight and die if I have to."

Like many in Kinshasa, the riverside capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zinga had just voted for Jean Pierre Bemba, a former warlord facing the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, in the country's first democratic elections in more than 40 years.

The threat of violence is being taken seriously. More than 17,000 United Nations troops are in Congo. Mr Kabila won 45 per cent of the national vote in July's first round and is favourite, just, to win the run-off.

But in Kinshasa he is despised by many who see him as a foreigner. He grew up in Tanzania and does not speak Lingala, the language of the west.

Observers fear that whatever the result - which will not be known for up to three weeks - some level of violence in the capital is inevitable. In Kinshasa, Mr Bemba last time won three times as many votes as Mr Kabila, and if he loses overall, voters may take to the streets. If Bemba were to win, diplomats warned that Kabila would not accept the result. "There will be a war if Bemba wins," said one.

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