Congo: Ballots and Bullets

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

December 19, 2005: For the first time in 40 years, a democratic vote took place, to select a new constitution. Turnout was low, and there was some violence. More than 24 million voters were registered for the December 18 and 19 constitutional vote. Approval of the constitution means national elections sometime before June 30, 2006, and an end to President Joseph Kabila's current "transitional government." This will be the first vote in the Congo since 1970, when former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko ran unopposed from president in a rigged vote.

December 17, 2005: The UN and Congo government reported three poll stations in the capital of Kinshasha were attacked. One was attacked with explosives, the other two were hit with Molotov cocktails (fire bombs). Some factions in the current government have opposed the "power sharing" arrangements and are urging voters to reject the constitution, which will be voted on December 18. Rebel groups in the eastern Congo also oppose the constitution. Many people also think President Joseph Kabila has "manipulated" the constitution writing committee. The draft constitution lowers the minimum age for being president from 35 to 30. Kabila is 33. There are, however, some aspects of the constitution that demonstrate thought went into it, as well as knowledge of the Congo's divisions. The constitution would divide the country into 25 provinces. The provinces would have a great deal of autonomy. An attempt was made to create provinces that unite groups with common tribal and linguistic heritages.

December 16, 2005: The UN reported that Congo police fired weapons into the air to break-up anti-constitution demonstrations in Kinshasha. There were also anti-constitution protests in the eastern Congo.

December 10, 2005: Because of new militia attacks in the eastern Congo, 13,000 people have sought refuge in the town of Dubie (eastern Congo). The biggest problem was getting food into the area. The World Food Program said that is was in the process of airlifting 70 tons of food to the town of Mpiana (north of Dubie). The refugees fled fighting between Congo troops and rebel militiamen.

December 7, 2005: The UN said that the Congo government had Justin Ngole Dalo (nom de guerre "Koliba") the militia leader believed responsible for killing nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers in February 2005. The ambush Dalo led occurred in the eastern Congo's Itrui district. Dalo is also accused of murdering over one hundred civilians in Ituri. Dalo had been on the UN's "most wanted" list since the attacks in February.

 

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