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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
DR Congo campaign hits the capital
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC News, Kinshasa

Supporters of President Kabila
President Kabila did not attend his own rally
The campaign for Democratic Republic of Congo's historic elections officially started two weeks ago but the first campaign rallies in the capital, Kinshasa, have only just been held.

The first was held in Tata Raphael stadium by Oscar Kashala, one of the 33 presidential candidates.

The stadium, which can hold 60,000 people was less than half-full.

But supporters of Mr Kashala - a US-based medical doctor - were there to encourage their leader.

"A new man for a new country," as the slogan goes.

Those who said Mobutu and his party had died are just liars
Supporters of Mobutu's son
In 1974, a historic sports events took place in the stadium, when Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman to recapture his world heavyweight title.

One of Mr Kashala's supporters said his father had attended the 1974 boxing match.

"He is going to rule this country - he is going to beat [President] Kabila to death, like Muhammad Ali - just by words, by strategy," he said.

Rival supporters tried to disrupt the rally by throwing stones.

'Determined'

Their rally was taking place in another stadium.

About the same number of people showed up to support their candidate, Joseph Kabila, who became president following the 2001 assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.

Nzanga Mobutu
Nzanga Mobutu's father was famous for his leopard skin hats
But Mr Kabila never showed up, as he is touring the country and was campaigning in the east.

Meanwhile, on the city's main boulevards hundreds of people sang as they accompanied the car of Nzanga Mobutu, son of the country's long-time leader, Mobutu Sese Seko.

"Those who said Mobutu and his party had died are just liars," they sang.

Nzanga Mobutu, 36, wore a scarf made from leopard skin - one of the symbols of his father's power.

He briefly opened his window and said: "We are determined to go to the end and win the elections."

He stressed that the legacy of his father were peace, security and national unity.

During the Mobutu era, elections were held but there was never any doubt who would win.

These elections, which follow a five-year war, are supposed to be the first democratic polls since independence 45 years ago.




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