Demonstrators at a past march in Kinshasa. They were demanding the inclusion of the UPDS in the electoral process.
KINSHASA, 30 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Presidential aspirants in the Democratic Republic of Congo kicked off their nationwide campaigns on Friday for the country's first democratic elections in 45 years, due on 30 July.
"The 30-day nationwide campaign is officially launched," Apollinaire Malumalu, chairman of the National Independent Electoral Commission, said.
There are 33 presidential candidates, and 9,780 aspirants vying for 500 parliamentary seats. Presidential frontrunner and incumbent Joseph Kabila is contesting as an independent.
Presidential aspirants Osee Muyima and Mbuyi Kalala, of the Renouveau pour la developpement et la democratie and the Rassemblement pour une nouvelle societe parties, started their campaigns in a televised national debate on Thursday, two hours ahead of the official flag off.
Other candidates such as Kabila and veteran politician Antoine Gizenga of the Parti de Lumumbistes Unifies (Palu) launched their campaigns before the official start of the campaigns. Banners and posters of many other candidates were also already visible in the capital, Kinshasa, and in other parts of the country.
The High Media Authority, which is overseeing the media during the campaign and electoral period; and the electoral commission, have got all the presidential and legislative candidates to sign a document committing themselves to abide by the electoral rules. The 80-article document they signed forbids candidates to attack the private lives of their political adversaries; avoid personal insults; as well as public incitation to ethnic and racial violence.
The campaign started as three of the country's four vice-presidents in the transitional government began a meeting in Kinshasa on Friday to lobby for the inclusion of all persons still outside the political process, such as veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi, so that the elections would be held peacefully.
Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa, in charge of politics, defence and security in the transitional, said the meeting would be attended by President Kabila and the other vice-presidents, representatives of belligerent parties and opposition politicians who have declined to take part in the electoral process.
"These talks are aimed at ensuring that the election results are not contested in a violent way that would make the country ungovernable," Elonge Osako, Ruberwa's spokesman, said.
However, supporters of Tshisekedi, who is the leader of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social, marched through the streets of Kinshasa on Friday, burning a car in protest against the entire electoral process.
Tshisekedi has been calling for the boycott of the elections unless he and his party are registered. He failed to register during the official period of registration, saying the process was flawed.
Some 50,000 police officers trained specially to keep order during the political process are to be backed by a brigade of the country's newly integrated army; troops of the UN Mission to the country; and a European force, Interior Minister Thephile Mbemba said.