Sunday, July 30, 2006

Election day observations

It is the 30th of July. A great day for the Congo. It is election day for the first time in over 30 years. We are in Lubumbashi. Walls and trees are covered with posters for the 32 people running for President. On the national level, there are over 5,000 running for the 500 seats in parliament. Everyone is very excited about the whole process. Registration went on for months. It is an exiting and critical time for the country in which most people want an end to the conflict and to settle down and rebuild the country. There are over 16,000 UN troops on the ground to ensure security. Observers from all over the world are present to oversee the fairness of the election. This is the most expensive and logistically complex election ever carried out in Africa. With over 60,000 polling places in the country the size of the US east of the Mississippi River, it is often very difficult to get to them in the interior. Those conducting to polling places and counting the ballets are given satellite phones and their ballet boxes and have to walk to some places where there are no roads and others have to take canoes. Helicopters are also in use. The count will take at least two weeks. We were hoping to cross the border yesterday to go to Zambia and on to the US to visit our churches. However the border was closed early and so we remained for the election. We will try again tomorrow if the border opens. Things have been very quiet here all day and the election seems to have gone well. Keep praying for the Congo.

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