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President, Former Rebels Join Dozens in Race for Congo's Top Job

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VOA News - April 3, 2006

Registration for Congo's elections closed late Sunday with more than 70 people signing up for the presidential race and 4,000 aiming for a seat in parliament. The continuing absence of the veteran opposition UDPS party is raising concerns for the elections, which are meant to bring peace to the war-torn Congo.

Having fought a long bloody war against each other and then taken part in a fragile transitional government together, Congo's President Joseph Kabila and various rebel leaders are lining up in the race for state house.

Mr. Kabila and the former rebels whose armies fought for five years throughout the mineral-rich country have joined dozens of other Congolese on the list of presidential hopefuls.

The electoral commission says 70 people had signed up as presidential candidates, but about half had not qualified, mostly for failing to pay the $50,000 deposit.

While applications were still trickling in from different corners of the vast country, the electoral commission also said more than 4,000 people had signed up to contest the 500 seats in the post-war parliament.

The elections, which are meant to help cement peace-deals that ended Congo's 1998-2003 war, were due to take place on June 18, but they are going to be delayed, probably until July.

The polls will offer millions of Congolese their first chance in more than four decades to choose their own leaders. During that time the country has endured little but dictatorship and war.

But concerns continue over the popular opposition party, UDPS, which has boycotted the three-year old of transitional government and is refusing to take part in the electoral process. The party's demands for positions in key institutions and the re-opening registration for its voters have not been met, a senior official said. That means the party cannot take part in the elections.

Although Congo's war officially ended in 2003, the conflict simmers across much of the east of the vast country, killing 1,000 people every day, to add to the four million who have died since 1998.


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