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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Relief at peaceful Congo election
By Joseph Winter
BBC News website, Kinshasa

Officials counting votes in Yolo North, western Kinshasa
Voter turnout in Yolo North was said to be 70%
The morning after the Democratic Republic of Congo's historic elections, there is a mood of relief that the election - part of a peace process that ended a five-year war - happened without violence.

One man told me he was just relieved that DR Congo's elections had passed off peacefully.

Like many Congolese, he had feared serious unrest on election day after one of the main parties called for a boycott of the polls.

These fears were heightened by clashes between the armed guards of some of the main presidential candidates and former military wings last week.

Posters in Kinshasa
32 presidential candidates
9,709 parliamentary candidates
25.6m voters
50,000 polling stations
260,000 electoral staff

But despite some accusations of irregularities, so far there has been no widespread violence.

And while journalists and political activists are deeply frustrated that official presidential results will not be published for several weeks, there is also a feeling that this may serve as a useful cooling off period.

"The city was really tense," said Aime, a businessman. "This period will let people calm down."


By Sunday night, election officials had started counting the votes from DR Congo's landmark polls in the hot, sweaty, mosquito-infested schools of Yolo North, in western Kinshasa.

The lucky ones had lights in the classrooms - others have to make do with battery-powered lamps.

Some were counting on the floor, others on wooden tables.

Voters relax at outside bars
Some voters say they have little confidence in their politicians
They first scrupulously tallied up the total numbers of voters and made sure that this was the same as the number of ballot papers used.

In one polling station, there was a discrepancy of just one out of 255, leading to a long delay but no-one made a fuss - they just carried on counting and recounting until they got it right.

And these officials - mostly a mixture of teachers and students - had often had nothing to eat all day.

Earlier, as voting drew to a sleepy close after a brisk start in the morning, they were complaining bitterly but then the adrenalin of counting took over.

Some were also unhappy that they had not yet been paid.

But despite the tough conditions they have endured, I do not think they would be popular if they went on strike.

Despite appearing apathetic until late in the campaign, most "Kinois" - as Kinshasa residents are known - seem enthusiastic on election day.

Turn-out was about 70% in the polling stations I visited.

From the afternoon and then into the night, many Kinois were relaxing in the "terraces" - open-air bars, where beer and grilled meet are served against a background of Congo's famous Ndombolo dance music.

"I don't have much confidence in any of the candidates but I voted for the least bad," one man told me over his bottle of Congo's famous Primus beer.

Click on the links below to read BBC reporters' logs from the election campaign


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