Monday, September 25, 2006

Alliances Develop in Advance of the Second Round

Over the past week a series of alliances have developed in advance of the run-off between Jean Pierre Bemba and Joseph Kabila. Although many of the Congolese progressive and opposition forces believe a choice between Kabila and Bemba is tantamount to choosing between the plague and cholera, for the most part, they are beginning to become more engaged and are lining up in support of one of the two candidates.

Two candidates (Nazanga Mobutu 4.7% and Antoine Gizenga 13.0%) who did relatively well in the first round have thrown their support behind Kabila. Bemba has garnered the support of 15 of the presidential candidates and is seeking support from Etienne Tshisekedi and his UDPS political party.

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) announced the campaign period will run from October 13 - 27, 2006. Campaigning for the provincial elections will run from September 28 to October 27. Voting will take place on October 29, 2006 both for the presidential run-off and the provincial elections.

In spite of the alliances being formed, with each passing day, it appears that both sides are simultaneously preparing for conflict. Reports continue to unfold of heavy artillery and arms streaming into the city for both Kabila and Bemba.

Events such as the arrests of street children who are accused of stirring unrest on behalf of Bemba, the burning down of Bemba's television stations, harassment and jailing of journalists, have all added to the tension in the city.

It is difficult to say how the elections will unfold, however, one thing is clear, as long as the security forces of Kabila and Bemba are not disarmed or credibly integrated into the national army, the chances of violence occurring during the election period increases exponentially.


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