Kabila looks set for Congo victory

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The Independent Online

Joseph Kabila appeared to be heading to victory after Sunday's elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The incumbent President swept the eastern regions, picking up more than 80 per cent of the vote in the majority of polling stations in North and South Kivu, according to preliminary results.

In Katanga, a province in the south, Mr Kabila was polling at more than 55 per cent. However, in the capital, Kinshasa, Jean Pierre-Bemba, the warlord turned politician, was narrowly topping the polls.

Voters, who had turned up in enormous numbers for Sunday's elections - the first in more than 40 years - returned to polling stations yesterday to find out the results, which were pinned up on noticeboards.

The slow process of compiling results from more than 50,000 polling stations spread across a country the size of western Europe is expected to last at least two weeks. But already Mr Kabila's supporters have begun celebrating.

A second round of voting in the presidential elections was planned for October, but observers believe Mr Kabila may have done enough to win outright.

Such a result could trigger fresh fighting in a country wracked by more than a decade of conflict. Both Mr Bemba and another former warlord, Azarias Ruberwa, have said they will not accept the result if there are "irregularities". In the east, the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda is reportedly increasing his recruitment of child soldiers.

One international observer said the election may not deliver peace: "This election is going to divide the country. If Kabila wins in the first round, there is a question whether people in Kinshasa will accept it."