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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 00:10 GMT
DR Congo votes in landmark poll
Voters queue in eastern DR Congo
Few Congolese benefit from the country's mineral wealth
People in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been voting in one of Africa's most significant elections for many years.

Voting has been mostly peaceful but at least one person died in protests over alleged fraud in the north-east.

Results are not expected to be announced for about a week.

Congolese hope the election will end years of conflict and abuse of power. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila faces ex-rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The run-off concludes DR Congo's first fully democratic polls since independence in 1960 and is supposed to draw a line under a five-year conflict.

'For the people'

Voting started slowly in the capital, Kinshasa, and other western areas because of a violent thunderstorm.

Turn-out is reported to be lower across the country, compared to July's first round.

I think this election will bring peace to neighbouring countries
Patrick, Uganda

"We need this vote to put an end to the mess. With God's help we will," Isidor Kaombe told Reuters news agency as he waited for election officials to arrive an hour after voting was due to begin in Kinshasa.

In the north-eastern town of Bumba, supporters of Mr Bemba burnt ballot boxes, after claims of vote-rigging, AP reports.

"Two people were killed when the police opened fire to disperse the crowds," local Equateur province governor Yves Mobando told Reuters but a UN spokeswoman said only one person had died.

Shots were also fired at a polling station in Kinshasa following claims of attempted fraud.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Kinshasa says it is impossible to exaggerate how the destiny of DR Congo could shape the future of Africa.

Nine states border the country and all were affected by the wars caused by the long lack of real government in DR Congo, the power vacuum at the heart of Africa, he says.

Some four million people are thought to have died.

Its rich reserves of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan - used in mobile phones - have attracted a series of armed groups, both Congolese and foreign, intent on looting.

President Joseph Kabila and his challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba

"From now on, leaders will rule for the people, not just possess power forever," Theoneste Mpatse-Mugabo told the AP news agency in the eastern city of Goma.

DR Congo is two-thirds the size of Western Europe but has just 300 miles of paved roads after years of conflict and gross mismanagement.

UN officials say the polls are the most important on the continent since the 1994 election that ended apartheid in South Africa.

Polls were due to start closing at 1500 GMT in the east and an hour later in the west, but voting was extended in some areas.

Troops standby

Mr Kabila has strong support in the east of Congo; Mr Bemba is popular in the west.

Many easterners credit Mr Kabila with ending the war and blame the conflict on rebels such as Mr Bemba.

1998 - 2002
4m dead
At least 8 armies, many rebel groups
2003: Rebels join unity government
East remains unstable
17,000 UN peacekeepers
Those in the west say Mr Kabila, who grew up in Tanzania, is not a true Congolese, unlike Mr Bemba.

Mr Kabila won first round polls on 30 July, but fell just short of the 50% needed for outright victory.

He has also gained the support of the candidates who came third and fourth - veteran nationalist Antoine Gizenga and Nzanga Mobutu, son of the country's long-time leader, Mobutu Sese Seko.

At least 23 people were killed in armed clashes between security forces loyal to Mr Kabila and Mr Bemba in Kinshasa after the results were announced.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the two candidates to ensure that the election progress passes off peacefully.

Both men have promised to urge their supporters against violence and to abide by election rules.

Extra UN peacekeeping troops are on standby in the east of the country.

In Kinshasa, the UN is being backed up by a special European Union military force.

The election is the outcome of a long peace process

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