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Tense Congo awaits election results

A member of the Union for Democracy and Social Process (UDPS) party in Lubumbashi as pictured on Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • Congo's election commission postponed announcing the results Tuesday
  • The opposition has accused the election commission of conducting a botched poll
  • The polls are critical in the central African nation struggling to rebuild years after a conflict

The Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to release election results Thursday after a two-day delay that has intensified tensions between the government and opposition leaders.

On Tuesday, Congo's election commission announced that it was postponing announcing the results by 48 hours.

"People stayed up until after midnight early Thursday waiting for the results," said Herman Nzeza, the Congo representative of FreeFair DRC, a nonpartisan group that raises awareness of the election. "They normally announce them at night, so the streets were empty. People were waiting for them to be announced on state television."

Nzeza, who is based in the capital of Kinshasa, said there is no set time frame for the announcement, but citizens expect it before midnight local time.

Opposition leaders have accused the election commission of conducting a botched poll after preliminary results showed incumbent President Joseph Kabila in the lead.

Etienne Tshisekedi, the main challenger, has warned that the opposition will not accept the election outcome amid claims of ballot stuffing and manipulated voter lists.

Kabila, 40, took over after his father's assassination in 2001 and was later elected in Congo's first democratic election five years later.

Frontrunner Tshisekedi, 78, has gained popularity in the sprawling capital of Kinshasa for speaking out against the nation's autocracies and has been a fixture in the nation's politics for three decades.

The election commission said Tuesday that Kabila was leading with 49% while Tshisekedi had 34% with nearly 90% of the vote counted, according to Nzeza.

"Expectations are high. Tensions are very high," he said. "The opposition wants to win. It's now or never. Tshisekedi is already considering himself president. We don't know how all sides will react, if their candidates don't win."

Analysts fear the election outcome could plunge the nation into chaos again years after a 1998-2003 conflict that left 5 million dead as a result of fighting, diseases and starvation.

Clashes have erupted after the vote, with at least 18 people killed in a week of election-related violence, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

Stability in Congo -- which borders nine mostly vulnerable countries -- is vital to Africa's Great Lakes region. The years of war affected at least six neighboring nations, some of which are still battling rebel movements spawned during the conflict.

Despite Congo's vast resources including cobalt, gold, copper and tantalum, the fledgling democracy is mired in poverty and conflict especially in its eastern region, a hot spot for the so-called "conflict minerals" that activists say are used to fund rebel movements in the area.

      Democratic Republic of Congo

    • A member of the Union for Democracy and Social Process (UDPS) party in Lubumbashi as pictured on Wednesday.

      The DR of Congo is scheduled to release election results after a two-day delay that has intensified tensions between the government and opposition leaders.
    • A Congolese woman casts her ballot in Goma during presidential and legislative elections on November 28, 2011.

      Vote counting is under way in the DR of Congo after millions went to the polls in the nation's second postwar election amid logistical challenges.
    • Mount Nyamulagira is considered to be the most active volcano and is currently ejecting lava fountains as high as 300 meters in the air. The incandescent lava is currently flowing into uninhabited areas in the south of the park.

      Spewing red hot lava 300 meters in the air, an erupting volcano in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is turning the war-torn African country into an unlikely tourist destination.
    • Masika says that some survivors are so traumatized she has to look after them in her own home until they are emotionally stronger. This year she has helped 140 women, 10 men and over 20 children.

      Filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies details her experience talking to the women of eastern Congo who had been raped multiple times by gangs of soldiers.
    • The Democratic Republic of Congo will hold both presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28. Here supporters of incumbent, Joseph Kabila drive down streets in the eastern city of Goma.

      Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo head to the polls on November 28 to pick a president and parliament in the mineral-rich central African nation.
    • Congo is rich in minerals used to make cell phones and other electronics. But there are fears that armed groups are using the minerals to fund their activities.
    • Her image may have appeared on billboards worldwide, but Noella Coursaris is now trying to help children and women in her birthplace of DRC.
    • Despite years of chaotic warfare in and around their habitat, the population of a group of Grauer's gorillas has grown, researchers say.