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Polls repeated in volatile areas

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©  Eddy Isango/IRIN

Vice President Jean-Bemba, who faces President Joseph Kabila in the run-off poll, casts his vote in Kinshasa

KINSHASA, 1 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - Repeat elections have been conducted in parts of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri District following disturbances during Sunday's presidential polls.

Speaking on Tuesday, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Apollinaire Malumalu, told IRIN that the disturbances had occurred in Fataki, 90 km northeast of Bunia, the main town in Ituri, after a soldier shot dead two polling clerks.

The soldier, Sgt Innocent Mamale, has since been sentenced to death by a military tribunal in Bunia.

Elsewhere, polls were also repeated on Tuesday in Bumba, in the northwestern province of Equateur, after people who accused polling officials of being supporters of the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, destroyed 12 voting stations, Malumalu said.

Malumalu said at least 20,000 voters failed to participate in the polls in Bumba following the incident.

Sunday's poll pitted Kabila against one of the country's vice-presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba. In the first round poll in July, Kabila failed to get the 50 percent and one vote needed to avoid a run-off.

Equateur Governor Yves Mobando Yogo said: "We have reinforced security, we have also asked for additional army and police, but the people seem to be afraid even if the army's presence is only dissuasive."

Polling centres in Bumba opened five hours late because hesitant voters had to be persuaded to turn up, Yogo said.

Malumalu said investigations had begun to establish what had really taken place in Bumba.

He added that two voters had also been killed in the locality of Watsa, in the northeastern province of Orientale, and that unidentified people in Equateur's Bikoro locality destroyed two voting stations.

There was also confusion about ballot papers at the Boma, Matadi and Luozi voting centres in the western province of Bas-Congo, and in the provinces of Katanga, North Kivu, Bandundu and Kinshasa, he said.

In Kinshasa, police fired gunshots into the air to stop riots at voting centres. However, unlike in Bumba, the other incidents did not lead to repeat polls.

International observers have condemned the incidents calling for fresh elections in the affected areas. However, the electoral commission has said it would be necessary to wait until 19 November for the full results from the 50,045 voting stations countrywide.

The commission is also expected to give the result of voter participation at the end of ballot counting. According to observers, voter participation was lower than in the first round of the elections when about 18 million voters - just over 70 percent of the electorate - took part.

"It will range between 30 and 50 percent," Rigobert Minani, the chairman of the National Network of Observers, said.

At least 25 million voters were registered for the elections that mark the first democratic vote since the country's independence in 1960.

Sunday's poll represents the end of the transitional government installed in 2003 following the signing of a power-sharing agreement, the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement, between the government and rebel factions.


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