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All Congolese Urged To Vote In Historic Poll

All Congolese Urged To Vote In Historic Poll


As polling stations across the vast reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) prepare to receive tens of millions of voters on Sunday, a United Nations envoy to the country said that security conditions have been met, as he urged all Congolese to participate.

Ross Mountain, Deputy Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the DRC, said that all safeguards are in place to ensure that the historic national elections, the first in the country in 45 years, are free and fair.

More than 100,000 national and international observers, as well as political parties and candidates' witnesses, will be monitoring the process, he said, as part of the most complex election-support programme ever undertaken by the UN. In addition, some 400 foreign journalists have been accredited by the media unit of the UN mission to the DRC, known by its French acronym <"http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/monuc/index.html">MONUC, to cover the event.

In regard to security, Mr. Mountain said more than 73,000 police officers have been mobilized, with Congolese, European Union and UN troops standing by to provide assistance if needed. A toll-free number has been publicized so that the population can report harassment by security forces if it occurs during the polls.

Asked about the volatile eastern Ituri province, he expressed confidence that the vote there will be peaceful after an agreement was signed between one of the region’s largest rebel coalitions and the Congolese Government.

Also calling on the Congolese to actively participate in the elections, Secretary-General Annan said today at UN Headquarters that violence must be avoided and the elections result be accepted.

We are in the process of aiding [the Congolese] to build a state, and I hope that they will take the opportunity to really conquer their differences through the vote rather than through other means, he said.

It is hoped that the massive electoral contest, requiring 53,000 voting stations and drawing some 33 candidates for president and more than 9,700 candidates for the 500-seat National Assembly, will help the country cement stability after its devastating civil war.

Ends

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