The BBC News website's Joseph Winter spent time in the Democratic Republic of Congo's second city, Lubumbashi, in a market place connecting local people with you, readers around the world, via a LIVE laptop link-up.
Congolese voters are getting ready to head to the polls to elect a president and parliament in what they hope will be the country's first fully democratic vote since independence.
They answered your questions throughout the day.
Read below to see how the day unfolded.
Joseph Winter 1816 local time (1616 GMT / 1716 BST)
The sun is starting to get a bit lower in the sky, although the market is still going strong.
A group of boys have used a couple of bricks and a stick to build some goals in the dirt road outside the house we are in to play football. The ball has been wound together from strings made from rags and pieces of plastic.
A bit further down the road, there is a kind of lorry graveyard, where the hulks of abandoned trucks have been turned into a climbing frame by the children.
Down in Zambia market, I saw a lorry loaded with tree trunks, chopped down some 40km from Lubumbashi and brought to the city to provide firewood. Almost half of Africa's forests are in Congo - but for how much longer?
Everyday things, like this lorry, become toys for the children
But as the participants said in their exchange, the environment is not the priority, when 80% of the population live in poverty.
I am desperate to go and wash some of the dust off me - I seem to have developed an extra red, bitty layer of skin. Of course the people who live here do not have that luxury - the dust is everywhere and they have no running water.
I also hope the BBC laptop will recover from this experience, or my editors and the technical team will not be happy.
Before leaving, I asked the participants for their final thoughts:
Mr Ikos: It was really touching. I realised that people were talking from their hearts.
I was astonished that people were interested in our personal problems - such as my search for my lost son - as well as questions of national importance.
Here, people are often indifferent to other people's problems but the world is really getting smaller and becoming a village, thanks to the internet.
Ellene: I did not know that people around the world were so interested in Congo.
I really appreciate it and have learnt something new.
Demaman: I am very happy to take part in this exchange.
I did not realise that so many people wanted to know about us here in Congo.
Chinabu: I am delighted to see that photos of us have been shown around the world and so many people know us through them. People have seen how we struggle with our daily lives and how we refuse to die despite our problems.
Schadrac: I am overcome with joy to be one of the Congolese to talk to the BBC and to have made the contact with people around the world. Especially Candice, who promised to help us get books for our school. All of Congo will benefit from them.
Viviane: I found it really illuminating. I am delighted to know there are so many people who are interested in us and our elections. I really did not know what to expect.
I think we should do something similar again - but not just at election time, when lots of journalists come. We should do it a few months after the elections to see what has changed.
Question from Perezato, Brikama, The Gambia to the voters, 1701 local time (1501 GMT / 1601 BST)
Q: Why are there more than 20 presidential candidates? Do you think they have the country at heart? I am a Sierra Leonean but I am sure the only candidate among them that will help the country move ahead will be Mr Joseph Kabila. I may be wrong but that is my candid opinion.
Ellene: Most of the candidates are just there for their own interests.
They are lions in sheep's clothing. If they are elected, we will see their claws.
Demaman: I agree there are too many candidates.
Chinabu: It is good to have such a wide choice, to help the winner - he will have beaten many rivals.
Schadrac: It is not good to have so many - 32. It shows that our reconciliation process remains fragile, even though we have had so many peace talks and discussions. By contesting, they show they still hope to gain power. I do not think they all have the country's interests at heart.
They have hidden agendas.
Question from Samuel, Cape Town to the voters, 1656 local time (1456 GMT / 1556 BST)
Q: What is your impression about Congolese nationals, in the diaspora, who are not being allowed to cast their vote for this historic election? Was the Sun City agreement really inclusive and global?
Chinabu: I think Congolese who live abroad should come back here to vote.
Not everyone was at the Sun City peace talks which ended the war.
Schadrac: I do not think they should be allowed to vote because only the fish who live in the water really know what the crocodile is like. Most Congolese living abroad do not really know what life is like here.
For Sun City, you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. We will never all be together.
Question from Dr M Seshagiri Rao, Bangalore, India to the voters, 1646 local time (1446 GMT / 1546 BST)
Q: DR Congo is a rich country with poor people because there is no transport system. The country has a lot of resources both mineral and agricultural but the produce cannot be marketed. Have any of the candidates promised to create a good and efficient railway or highway system? We all know that the Voie Nationale, the supposed integrated river/road system, has never worked.
Demaman: Yes they have - this is very important for Congo.
Ellene: I have not heard anyone say that - they just say, "Wait and see what we will do for you."
Schadrac: Yes they have, even though they talk mostly about peace, water, electricity and jobs.
But it is very important to help us import what we need. For example, the rice we just ate was imported from Zambia. We grow lots of rice here but there is no way of getting it to the market.
Question from Juliaan van Acker , Antwerpen, Belgium to the voters, 1600 local time (1400 GMT / 1500 BST)
Q: Do you agree that the result of this election will trigger a new civil war provoked by those who are not elected? My solution is to first of all implement a better elementary education in the whole country and then, after about 20 years, new elections. I have been a teacher in your country (Ecoles des Moniteurs a Boende).
Ellene: We should not have to wait for 20 years to vote.
Better education will follow after the elections, not the other way round.
Schadrac: School certificates are not what this country needs to organise elections. The least educated ruled us after independence in 1960 and things were not any worse than now.
All our ministers have got lots of qualifications but they have ruined our country. What should we do for the next 20 years - how would our government have any legitimacy?
Question from Peter Nweke, Onitsha, Nigeria to the voters, 1548 local time (1348 GMT / 1448 BST)
Q: Knowing fully well how crucial the up-coming elections are to the ordinary Congolese, and other Africans, what measure then, or strategy have you put in place to ensure that the election will not by any way be rigged, because election rigging is one common phenomenon with many African leaders? Overall, congratulations as you go to the polls.
Ellene: I do not think there will be any fraud. I think God has already chosen for us.
Chinabu: Everything depends on the Independent Electoral Commission and whether they do their jobs properly.
Schadrac: The biggest problem we have is a lack of confidence.
There is a crisis of confidence between the voters and the candidates. It is not surprising that people talk about fraud. There were even accusations of fraud in the US elections.
Question from David Karani, Helsinki, Finland to the voters, 1510 local time (1310 GMT / 1410 BST)
Q: Is there multinational corporations involved in mining in your country? If yes, what is their contribution in the development of the country socially, economically and politically?
Ellene: The multinational companies here do not do anything for the people, except when they give out some food or something at the end of the year.
Chinabu: People who work there are never given permanent contracts.
Schadrac: The multinational companies do not help local people. That is why our economy is such a disaster, even though they are here.
Joseph Winter 1459 local time (1259 GMT / 1359 BST)
Ikos and Viviane have had to go.
Ikos received a call, saying Gecamines was ready to pay him some of the money for 100 copies of his book, so he rushed off to collect his money. He said if he did not go now, he would be put to the end of the queue to be paid.
He had planned to buy some spare parts for his car. He said his son was doing it instead - searching through a pile of shock absorbers recovered from cars which have had accidents but are still in good condition.
Viviane says there is a meeting of all the female parliamentary candidates, which she had to go to.
Joseph Winter 1453 local time (1253 GMT / 1353 BST)
Lunch finally arrived - a feast of fried rouget fish, beef stew, cassava leaves sauce, known here as sombe, served with rice and maize meal porridge, known as boukari.
Viviane like her food to be cooked with chilli pepper
It was cooked in town and there were huge traffic jams, which explains the delay.
It was very welcome after a hard morning's work.
Most people ate with their hands. Here, Congolese people normally eat together around a big single bowl, with everyone helping themselves.
Many Congolese like hot food and Viviane said she finds it difficult to eat unless there is some good chilli pepper.
Ikos says he normally only eats about 1700 so he was not hungry. He drank some Munkoyo instead.
Joseph Winter 1412 local time (1212 GMT / 1312 BST)
The place where we've come today is not right in the centre of the market. It's on the edge near some houses. But even here, people set up small stalls outside their houses to earn a few extra francs.
There is a woman opposite selling eggs. There's a drink stall next door and across the road someone is selling maize flour from a big bowl which is just left in the open despite the dust blowing everywhere.
The owner of the house says he has no running water. He has electricity supplied to his house but five months ago the transformer that supplies the district broke down. He's going to try and take out a second electricity contract from the next-door district, where their transformer still works.
I just saw some children playing in a broken-down lorry cab.
Joseph Winter 1330 local time (1130 GMT / 1230 BST)
The street trader, whose very apt name is Patient, said he really liked the Munkoyo drink. He said it will clean out his stomach and give him the strength to carry on for the rest of the day.
Question from Michael Allison, Preston, UK to the voters, 1332 local time (1132 GMT / 1232 BST)
Q: The mining of coltan [Columbite-tantalite] in Congo has grown enormously in recently years, especially driven by the mobile phone trade in the West where it's used in the manufacturing and cleaning of phone units. This mining process is speeding the extinction of Western Lowland gorillas as it destroys their habitats. I realise this will not be top of the agenda for most voters given the other issues you face but is this an issue at all in Congo and do any of the candidates propose to act to prevent further damage?
Schadrac: Not a single candidate has mentioned this. But it is very important for me that we preserve the environment. The only problem is that we have political leaders who do not think about the long term. I think they are only concerned about the period when they are in office.
Mr Ikos: The environment has not been mentioned during the campaign. We know that in recent years, there has been a genocide in Eastern Congo, which has not been recognised by the international community. In the short term, Congolese want to finish the war, we have not thought a lot about the survival of other species.
Chinabu: I have never seen a gorilla, so I am not concerned about them.
Demaman: I am not really concerned about the gorillas.
(After checking her party's manifesto)
Viviane: Our manifesto says we should set up a mining code to end the looting of our mineral resources. On page 91 (of 92), we say we should set up a National Action Plan for the environment and increase public awareness about the environment.
Question from Ali Mamina, Goshen, US to the voters, 1326 local time (1126 GMT / 1226 BST)
Q: I am Congolese, but I live in the USA for my studies. I would like to ask my fellow Congolese people there: All the campaign efforts, and the protests, have centred on individuals (Kabila, Bemba, Ruberwa, Tshisekedi etc). So what motivates you to vote: the individual, or the ideas, or the principles behind them? For example, if you support Bemba, do you support Bemba himself, or the principles of the MLC?
Viviane: As for me, we look at a person's ideas, as well as their record, when choosing who to support.
Ellene: I am going to vote according to people's ideas, not their personalities.
Chinabu: I am going to vote for Kabila because I know what he has done.
Mr Ikos: In my opinion, the manifestos of the different parties are almost the same. So most people will vote according to the person.
Schadrac: You know a person by their ideas. It is hard to disassociate a person from their ideas.
I thank Ali for being Congolese but I would like to ask him the same question: What would he do if he was here in Congo?
Joseph Winter 1320 local time (1120 GMT / 1220 BST)
A street trader has just walked past, carrying a large bundle of items for sale - belts, children's clothes and shoes.
It is getting quite hot and he has sat down in a small hut in front of the house next door, where he is being served a cup of the local health drink - Munkoyo.
We are all getting a bit hungry - we have organised for someone to bring us some lunch but it has not arrived yet.
Question from Joanna, Dublin to the voters, 1317 local time (1117 GMT / 1217 BST)
Q: I wonder how supporters of Kabila and his regime can defend the gross human rights abuses that have persisted under his leadership? Thousands of civilians as well as members of opposition parties, for example the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), have suffered police brutality. How can this be defended or encouraged?
Mr Ikos: African governments cannot stop themselves from committing abuses. That is one of the weakness in our political regimes, which we must fight.
Schadrac: We know how Kabila came to power - he could have done anything to stay in power.
As for the UDPS, we have a judicial system, despite its weaknesses. If there were abuses, we should investigate where responsibility really lies, instead of relying on rumours.
Question from Eric Konnerup, Waco, Texas to the voters, 1311 local time (1111 GMT / 1211 BST)
Q: I grew up in Africa and lived over half my life there, my heart is there and I want you to know that I pray daily for your country. How many political parties are there and are they set up on tribal lines?
Viviane: We have 240 political parties, which are not set up on tribal lines - they are mostly national parties.
Schadrac: In order to be registered as a party, they had to prove that they had a national base. Some old parties used to be dominated by certain groups.
Joseph Winter 1301 local time (1101 GMT / 1201 BST)
We just heard the sounds of the election campaign for the first time today - a car was driving round, blasting out a song urging people to vote for Moise Katumbi, a parliamentary candidate for the ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and saying the other candidates are drunkards.
Viviane - a rival candidate - said she was not too bothered by this. She says everyone campaigns as they want to. Her party, like the PPRD, supports Mr Kabila.
This led to a debate as to whether the PPRD was Mr Kabila's party - technically, he is running as an independent.
Question from Candice Ramessar, Irvington, NJ, USA to Schadrac, 1259 local time (1059 GMT / 1159 BST)
Q: Is there an address that I can send books to? I know it's not an election question but I am a teacher in the US and may be able to organise some books for your school.
Schadrac: Thank you very much. I hope the wishes which moved you to make the offer will carry on to the end. If we had some books, the whole community would be extremely grateful. We will try and find a way of getting the books delivered.
Comment from Marek Czyzynski, Leicester, UK to Mr Ikos, 1254 local time (1054 GMT / 1154 BST)
I was just reading the biographies of these people and one in particular struck me - Joseph Emmanuel Ikos Rukal Diyal's story really tugged at my heart strings, the pain and anguish suffered from not seeing your son for eight years is something I can't even begin to imagine. For what it's worth I send you my hopes and prayers that your son will arrive home safe and well.
Mr Ikos: I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am really touched. Thanks for your encouragement.
Joseph Winter 1237 local time (1037 GMT / 1137 BST)
We just had a visit from the local official in charge of the area, who was a bit worried about what we were up to.
But he seemed satisfied with my accreditation and carried on his way.
Question from Jonathan Moles, Ewell, UK to the voters, 1136 local time (0936 GMT / 1036 BST)
Q: We in the West shamefully did nothing during the war - what do you most need or want us to do now to help you?
Mr Ikos: Our country is very sick in every way. Every Western country can come and help us in whatever area it specialises in. We most need roads, railways, hospitals, schools. Economically, we need modern technology to overcome our problems in the mining and agricultural sectors.
We also need help, so our civil servants are well paid because the administration is the base of all our national policies.
Ellene: We need help to develop our electric power - that will help everything else. I have electricity in my house but we have power cuts every other day. Even if it comes, we have low tension, so we cannot use fridges.
Viviane: People should really help medical personnel. We have seen an exodus of trained people abroad because their pay is so small. We do not have the correct equipment or medicines. We should also be able to make our own medicines here.
Demaman: People should help us have schools, so everyone can get an education.
Chinabu: The West should help us create jobs.
Schadrac: I like using proverbs: People always take what is best in another's house. When the colonisers came here, they took our wealth and our best people.
Now, the West should give back what it took. The West watched while we suffered.
Question from William, Kigali to the voters, 1057 local time (0857 GMT / 0957 BST)
Q: If you and others are not in favour of the results of the election, what are the chances that the Katanga region decides to secede from the rest of DRC?
Viviane: Katangese are not ready to secede from DR Congo. If we are not happy with the results, we will vote again in five years' time.
Chinabu: If Kabila or someone from Katanga does not win, we should leave Congo.
Mr Ikos: In any case, the results will never be 100% satisfactory. We will just strive to do better next time. After the recent wars this election has helped build links between Congolese.
People are not really thinking about the idea of secession. If Katanga seceded, the province would then be split between the north and the south.
Schadrac: People are not thinking about secession. We are used to sitting under a tree to discuss our differences. We are used to sharing in Africa. Whoever catches an antelope will never eat it on his own.
Ellene: There will not be a secession, we will try and negotiate.
Demaman: I do not want to leave Congo , we should all stay together.
Question from Jim Parker, Bury St Edmunds to the voters, 1050 local time (0850 GMT / 0950 BST)
Q: This is the first hopefully legitimate and democratic election in the paradoxically named Democratic Republic of Congo. So as a European I would like to know, what is your perception of democracy in America and Europe?
Viviane: We are just at the start of a democratic process. What we see in the West is more advanced than what we have but we will get to their level.
Mr Ikos: European and US democracy is a good example for us. They are good examples to us.
Schadrac: I think our friends abroad who at the top of democracy should not compare us to them. It is like comparing an elephant to a mouse. They should help us get to their level. If there are problems, they should help us, not be too critical.
Chinabu: In the West, they have real democracy, unlike us.
Joseph Winter 1045 local time (0845 GMT / 0945 BST)
The wind is a real problem here - the dust is getting everywhere. We have put up a little tent to try and protect us but the dust is still getting into our eyes. I hope the equipment I am using is dust-proof!
Some of the children who live nearby are fascinated by what we are doing and formed a little crowd around us. A policeman also walked past, staring at us.
Unfortunately, Kitenge has gone to work in the mines. I hope he will be able to join us later on.
Ellene has just turned up after opening her market stall. But she has not sold anything since yesterday because people went to see President Kabila in town, rather than going to the market.
Question from Said Kakese Dibinga, Los Angeles, California to the voters, 1044 local time (0844 GMT / 0944 BST)
Q: Thank you BBC for this service! To my Congolese back home, I was born in Kinshasa. Is there a plan to arrest those that have helped put Congo in the situation that it is? And how can we Congolese overseas help you back home? Love always for DR Congo!
Mr Ikos: I am not sure what the new constitution says about impunity, as it was drawn up by the former warring factions. If people have committed crimes against humanity, I hope the International Criminal Court will bring them to justice, as it has done with Thomas Lubanga.
Congolese abroad should bring their money and invest in the country.
Ellene: People who have committed war crimes should not be in the government. We want to see some new faces in the government.
Congolese abroad should bring their money back home, as well as their skills and experience to help rebuild the country.
Schadrac: We are confident in the democratic exercise, that sooner or later, the Congolese people will sanction them.
Congolese abroad should organise themselves like other groups of foreigners, like those from Ivory Coast and Lebanon, who put their money together to send back home.
Question from Prossy, Uganda to the voters, 1039 local time (0839 GMT / 0939 BST)
Q: Everyone gets excited with the elections, and sometimes forget what the future will be. What will you do if the would-be elected government fails to live up to its promises?
Are you ready to confront the government or not? How will you help your MP and/or the government in rebuilding the devastated areas/regions?
Viviane: We will not elect them again. Five years is enough to make some real progress.
Chinabu: It is simple. We will vote them out of office.
Mr Ikos: That's is the point of democracy. If you lose the people's confidence you will no longer benefit from their votes.
Schadrac: That will help us to examine their records more closely.
Question from Laurent Mather, Northampton, UK to the voters, 0954 local time (0754 GMT / 0854 BST)
Q: I was wondering how voters feel about having a current president who speaks French with an English accent and almost no Lingala (Congo's most widely spoken language). Is Mr Kabila really Congolese or is he a Tanzanian immigrant? The Congo has the potential to be Africa's economic powerhouse but it needs the right leader. And does the fact that President Kabila's family comes from Katanga influence your vote?
Viviane: It is normal. If I went to somewhere where they speak English, I would pick up an English accent.
My party supports Mr Kabila but it is not because he comes from Katanga. He is a capable leader.
Schadrac: It is normal that he does not speak Lingala. It is not a condition to be president. He is not the only Congolese who does not speak Lingala.
English and French are not Congolese languages. The fact that he has Katangese origins does not influence my vote.
Demaman: I have no problem with that.
Chinabu: I like Kabila because he has brought peace, not because of where his family comes from.
Mr Ikos: I am happy that he is Katangese like us but what counts most for a leader is his ability - that will influence my vote above all else.
Question from Robert Foedisch, Seattle to the voters, 0949 local time (0749 GMT / 0849 BST)
Q: Would the voters be willing to tax themselves to improve their roads, airports, bridges and other parts of their country's infrastructure?
Schadrac: I am ready, as long as the government has a good policy on salaries and good governance. With our tiny salaries it is hard to see how we can pay tax.
Chinabu: I am not ready to pay tax because it will just be stolen by the government. First, we need to organise the government.
Demaman: I cannot afford to pay taxes from the small amount I earn selling vegetables.
Mr Ikos: I am ready to pay taxes, as well as it is properly managed.
Question from Charlotte, Edinburgh to the voters, 0947 local time (0747 GMT / 0847 BST)
Q: What do the voters think is the most important thing that a new government should deliver on?
Ikos: We want the government to encourage investors to rebuild our country.
Schadrac: Rehabilitation of Congo's economic-social-cultural tissue.
Viviane: Self-sufficiency in food.
Demaman: Rebuild schools.
Chinabu: Good governance and a strong currency.
Question from David Delbecq, London to the voters, 0939 local time (0739 GMT / 0839 BST)
Q: I was born in what was then Zaire and lived there until 1991 (I was 13). My parents were born there as were my grandparents. My great-grandfather came to Lubumbashi (Elisabethville) from Belgium in 1919 to help build railways. As such Congo issues are very close to my heart. How much of an involvement in the reconstruction of the country would you like to see Belgium play? My second question is: Is there still a feeling of Katanga identity?
Viviane: I have no problem with Belgium. If they want to help us, we welcome that. We need lots of help as we cannot do everything ourselves.
There are is a strong feeling of Katanga identity.
Chinabu: As the Europeans who colonised us did not finish their work here, they should help the Congolese government to build schools and hospitals.
I am proud to be from Katanga
Question from Ilina Todorovska, Brockenhurst, UK to the voters, 0932 local time (0732 GMT / 0832 BST)
Q: Considering the hardships of your lives do you feel resentful towards people in the West living considerably more luxurious lives? Is that kind of life your ultimate goal or are there things that are more important to you?
Demaman: I don't resent the luxury in the West.
I am happy with what I have. Human relations are more important for me.
Viviane: I am upset when I see images of the West. We are rich here in Katanga in terms of minerals but we see nothing. But western countries do not have the same wealth as us but they are rich.
Schadrac: I am happy to see Western life. It gives us something to work towards.
Mr Ikos: Everyone's goal is to improve their lives. Social justice and employment are the most important things.
Question from Edmund, Cambridge to the voters, 0928 local time (0728 GMT / 0828 BST)
Q: What is the perception of the UN in the DRC? Is it seen as effective, fair and helpful, or not?
Viviane: I think they are effective because since they have been here, things have changed, even if they are not perfect and there are still some problems.
Mr Ikos: Congo's problems are too many for the UN to solve quickly. They have helped but not as much as I would have liked.
Question from Mark Boulon, London to the voters, 0919 local time (0719 GMT / 0819 BST)
Q: African countries with less ethnic and cultural diversity, like Botswana, appear to be more successful economically, and more stable too. Does this mean Congo should be split up into separate countries? Or should there be a loose federation of states? Much of the corruption at government level appears to be due to jockeying between different ethnic groups.
Mr Ikos: I think federalism is a good idea - like US, Belgium and Nigeria.
Congo is a huge country. Different groups have different ways of looking at life.
Schadrac: Whatever system we have, it depends on the quality of our leaders.
But I would prefer federalism.
Question from Joel Kuipers, Washington to the voters, 0845 local time (0645 GMT / 0745 BST)
Q: There are many local languages in DR Congo. What are some of the words for "election" in the local languages and what do they mean?
Voters: Local word for elections include the following: Kutonda - Cokwe language which means choose, Machagusi - Kiswahili, Mapononi - Lingala, Usobola - Hemba
Joseph Winter 0830 local time (0630 GMT / 0730 BST)
Most traders in Zambia market have already set up, but a few stalls made of wooden tables under thatch are still empty.
The sun is already high in the sky, burning off the early morning chill. Some people are wearing thick coats and sweaters.
There is a strong wind, blowing the red dust everywhere.