Kabila looks good

Kabila clinched over 82 percent of the votes from the country’s eastern region. While preliminary results from the poll are expected this week amid heightening levels of anticipation, Kabila has so far scored a significant lead in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, Katanga and Maniema, where he scored close to 90 per cent of the vote.
Kabila’s arch-rival former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is trailing him with nearly 40 percent of the vote, and results released so far have shown a split between the eastern regions of the DRC and the west, with Kabila proving popular in the east while Bemba has taken the west, but with much lower averages.
Although trailing Bemba in Kinshasa and other western provinces of the DRC, Kabila is widely expected to reap greater percentages of the poll from other provinces, since votes in the west are split between Bemba and other candidates in the 33 man presidential race.
Results from the west showed a 40 percent lead for Bemba, while Kabila trailed behind with 16 percent of the vote. Incumbent president Kabila, credited with bringing stability to much of the volatile eastern region, seems to have mustered consistently huge numbers of votes in many parts of the country in a turn of events that has seen former flavour-of-the-month Jean-Pierre Bemba’s fortunes sliding significantly in the presidential race.
The first official results for eight out of 169 constituencies in the DRC were disclosed last week following the completion of counting in the constituencies, and they show a split between the eastern part of the DRC, Kabila’s stronghold, and the western parts, where Jean-Pierre Bemba was more popular than Kabila, although he led with a smaller margin.
Kabila has since registered a clear lead despite having had lower averages in Kinshasa and four other provinces where Bemba, a favourite in many parts of the vast country, had established a stronghold during the months of campaigning before the poll.
Final results for the whole of the DRC are expected in the coming weeks due to logistical hurdles presented by the DRC’s size and lack of infrastructure, though preliminary results will be announced this week.
Results from the DRC’s parliamentary election, which saw 9700 candidates running for 500 seats will also be announced before the end of the month.
If Kabila or any of the frontrunners in the poll fail to register a clear win of more than 50 percent of the total vote, the presidential race will enter a second round on October 29.

Observers have said Kabila’s dominance in the mineral rich and volatile eastern region could herald a new era of stability in much of the DRC, whatever the outcome of the election, while his average showing in the west was unlikely to present problems if he won the poll.
The eastern region of the DRC, where provinces such as Katanga, Maniema and Ituri are found, is one of the DRC’s least stable and most conflict-affected areas, with much of the country’s mineral deposits and the oldest feuds between warlords.
It is widely perceived that whoever wins support in the eastern region would easily have control over the rest of the DRC, and Kabila’s dominance in the three provinces of Katanga, Maniema and Ituri is seen as a positive indicator to a possible victory in the poll.
The UN reports that 50,000 people may have been killed in the region since 1999, and hundreds of thousands are displaced, food security is poor, and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and measles commonplace.
The tensions in Ituri result from several factors, including historical land ownership and tensions between the Hema and Lendu communities, and have been fanned by military, commercial and political forces, especially due to the fact that it bears much of the DRC’s mineral wealth, and neighbours Uganda, one of the country’s most influential neighbours.
Katanga is also one of the country’s richest provinces, and its vastness and huge population have made it a big factor in DRC politicas. Kabila’s ability to mobilize support in Ituri, Katanga and Maniema has been widely seen as an important decider in the final outcome of the poll.
The country’s poll, which went ahead despite fierce opposition from some church groups and armed rebel militias, has been hailed as successful, with arch-rivals former rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba and incumbent president Joseph Kabila leading the race while more rebel leaders have expressed their willingness to disarm and join a civilian administration.
Kabila is on record as saying he would accept the outcome of the election, even if he lost, while former rebel leader Azarius Ruberwa threatened he would not accept the outcome of the election, alleging there were irregularities.
The Independent Electoral Commission reported last week that the irregularities cited by some candidates would not affect the overall outcome of the poll and the UN and other international groups involved in the planning of the poll warned candidates against fomenting chaos after the election.
The DRC, a vast country of 62 million people, remains southern Africa’s biggest hope in the area of power generation and mineral exploitation. It is widely expected that stability in the country will bring more investment and reconstruction of the country’s economy.

August 2006
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