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CSMS Magazine Staff WritersThousands fled the eastern town of Sake after gun battle erupted between government forces and a rebel group known Nkunda’s brigade. According to Agence France Press (AFP), 18 civilians were reported wounded as well as 17 government soldiers and at least two soldiers from Nkunda’s brigade.Women carrying children on their backs and men bearing suitcases or mattresses were fleeing in droves, walking in a long line along the road to the provincial capital Goma, some 20 kilometers (13 miles) to the east, near the border with Rwanda.Many observers saw it coming because the peace agreement that ended the fighting in 2003 allowed rebel forces to incorporate into the army and allowed rebel chiefs to occupy high level position in the government, including Jean-Pierre Bemba, the head of the main rebel group, who was named vice-presidency. Since the peace agreement, the RDC has been ruled by a president and four vice-presidents.  “The firing has stopped. There are fears and apprehensions. There was a small misunderstanding but there is nothing to worry about,” Brigadier General GV Satyanarayana, commander of  U.N. forces in North Kivu. UN sources have indicated that rebel commanders and the army’s 9th brigade reached a deal after the gun battle to withdraw both forces from the town. This was done as its remaining residents applauded. A contingent of UN troops was said to be patrolling Sake to prevent further hostilities.It has been forty years since the Democratic Republic of Congo held its first multiparty elections. Civil war broke out in 1998, shortly after Laurent Kabila, an former Lumubist, swept to power and forced dictator Mobutu SeSe Seko into exile. Mobutu, considered the most hated man in Sub-Saharan Africa along with Angolan Jonas Savimbi and South African Mongutsutu Boutelezi, died in exile in Morocco in 1998. Laurent Kabila himself was killed mysteriously shortly thereafter following a dispute within the army leadership. His son, Joseph Kabila (left in the picture), took over the country and is praised for negotiating the peace agreement that ended hostilities in 2003.. “Vote Kabila! Vote Kabila!” people chanted after U.N. forces arrived. President Joseph Kabila, widely credited with securing the 2003 peace deal, was favored to win the vote, but results are not expected for more than two weeks. Meanwhile opposition leaders have been alleging fraud. “We are singing for Kabila because he is the only one who will bring peace,” said Sake resident Faustin Kasolu, 38.Nkunda is from a group called Yaya Melenge, which is a Tutsi ethnic group just like the same group found in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. He is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the Congolese government for alleged atrocities against civilians committed since 2004.The elections took place on July 30.  The 62 regional polling centers receive and compile results from the 50,000 voting centers in the vast central African country. Final results are not expected until August 20 because of the logistical hurdles presented by the DRC’s size and lack of infrastructure. Radio Okapi, a station sponsored by the United Nations. U.N. on Tuesday announced preliminary results from about 50 towns.The results showed, as expected, that incumbent President Joseph Kabila had won most of the vote in the eastern regions while Vice-President and rebel-turned-lawmaker Jean-Pierre Bemba was ahead in western provinces, notably in the capital Kinshasa. It is hoped that the first official results will put an end to the stream of fake results announced in recent days by various media, including television channels controlled by Kabila and Bemba.South Africa’s ambassador to DRC, Sisa Ngombane, whose country had a critical role in bringing former belligerents together to agree to a transition process, called for results to be published as soon as possible in order to prevent unrest.”The people are uneasy, the (electoral) commission needs to give the results as they come in, and allow the parties to argue and query them. If this occurs, then it doesn’t allow an atmosphere of rumor and speculation to arise,” Ngombane said in a statement posted on the UN website. “But you cannot sit on presidential results until August 20. It is clearly not going to work.” The nation will also learn the results of the vote for a 500-seat parliament from more than 9,700 candidates, which took place alongside the presidential poll, within the coming weeks. Joseph Kabila is facing 32 challengers. If none of the presidential candidates wins 50% of the votes or more, a second presidential round will take place on October 29.

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