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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 16:57 GMT
DR Congo set for 'mystery' vote

Voters in Democratic Republic of Congo are set to vote on a new constitution on Sunday but many complain they do not know what it contains.

"Maybe the constitution says we should sell our country, who knows?" student Stella Ivinya told the AP news agency.

Others, however, say they will approve it, just to move the peace process on.

If the constitution is rejected, elections due by June next year under a 2002 peace deal may be postponed.

Main opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has called for a boycott, whilst the main Catholic leader has called for people to vote.

Congolese police on Friday fired tear gas to disperse a small group of people opposed to the constitution in the capital, Kinshasa. Two people were arrested.

Armed groups

President Joseph Kabila has travelled to the former rebel stronghold of Bukavu for the first time since taking power, to lead the "Yes" campaign.

The AFP news agency reports that he received a hero's welcome from crowds of people waving flags.

DR CONGO CONSTITUTION
President limited to two five-year terms
Presidential age limit reduced from 35 to 33
President names prime minister from largest party
Provinces increased from 10 to 26
Same-sex marriage banned

The ex-rebel RCD, which shares power with Mr Kabila, is also campaigning for a "Yes" vote.

Eastern areas of DR Congo, around Bukavu, remain home to several armed groups.

But the BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa says voting is expected to take place in the region.

He says the elections pose a huge logistical challenge to the authorities.

After many years of war and misrule, many parts of DR Congo are inaccessible.

Our correspondent says some polling stations may not open on time.

'Too much'

Many people may vote "No" to protest at the continued rule of the warlords who agreed a power-sharing deal to end five years of war in 2002, our correspondent says.

Congolese woman wait for copies of the draft constitution in Kinshasa
These women queued for a copy of the draft constitution
The electoral commission says it has distributed some 500,000 copies of the constitution around the country in four major Congolese languages - Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Swahili.

But our correspondent says even educated people in the capital, Kinshasa, say they have not seen a copy.

"It is too bad we have to vote for a mystery document, but there is nothing else we can do," Edouardin Mputu, a young lawyer, told the AFP news agency.

But some fear further delays.

"Almost 16 years of transition. It's too much," said Lucie Misenga, a 42-year-old teacher-turned-trader in Kinshasa.

"Our only choice is to put an end to it by voting 'Yes' in the constitutional referendum," said the mother of six.

Former ruler Mobutu Sese Seko first launched a transition to multi-party elections in 1990 but these were never held.

Some 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers are in DR Congo to restore security and oversee the elections.


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