VOL. NO: 48      DATE:
 
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AFRICAN ECHO NEWS

FOUR EX PRESIDENTS IN DR CONGO TO MONITOR ELECTIONS

KINSHASA, Congo -- The two candidates awaiting results from Congo's landmark presidential runoff promised a group of former African heads of state -including Jerry John Rawlings - that they will accept the outcome, the exleaders said Saturday. President Joseph Kabila and former rebel leader Jean- Pierre Bemba had already vowed in a joint statement before the Oct. 29 secondround vote to ensure calm. 

But the international community has sought multiple assurances after troops loyal to the two men clashed in the capital during the release of the first-round vote, leaving at least 23 people dead in three days of fighting. 

Four former African heads of state met with the two candi dates separately and said both appeared ready to accept the outcome without fighting. 

"We have received assurances from each of them that they will accept the results of the ballot results and we are happy," said Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former military leader of Nigeria. He also urged the supporters of both presidential hopefuls to accept the outcome. The group also included Pierre Buyoya of Burundi and Sam Nujoma of Namibia. Congolese cast ballots for their first democratically elected president in more than 40 years, the culmination of a four-year transition aimed at ushering Congo out of 1998- 2002 wars and returning it to democratic rule after decades of dictatorship. Some 17,500 U.N. peacekeepers are overseeing the transition. 

Meanwhile, Congo's electoral commission said it is speeding up counting with the hope of releasing results well before a Nov. 19 deadline _ another attempt to reduce the period of uncertainty. "The pace is going to accelerate," electoral commission spokesman Dieudonne Mirimo told reporters. 

Mirimo said votes from about 43 percent of polling stations had been counted by Saturday evening, but declined to give results, saying that they still needed to be checked for errors. Congo had about 50,000 polling stations spread out over an area the size of Western Europe. The electoral commission said it plans to post results from a few localities on Sunday, amounting to about 1 million votes out of a potential 25 million. 

Also Saturday, state media authorities suspended a number of media outlets loyal to the two candidates for one to two weeks for disseminating unofficial results that showed their candidate ahead.

 

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