, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec 31 – Fears and frustration mingled with patience and optimism on Sunday as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s voters turned out en masse for a historic presidential election.
The vote should have been held two years ago, but President Joseph Kabila hung on to power, sparking protests that were brutally quelled and a wave of international condemnation.
The turmoil caused fears that the DRC — which has never had a peaceful handover of power since independence from Belgium in 1960 — could slide back into conflict.
But on voting day, the biggest immediate headache was not violence but organisational problems that caused long lines at polling stations.
Hitches were reported with electronic voting machines, the source of much pre-electoral controversy.
In the troubled east, a symbolic vote was held in Beni, one of several regions where the election has been postponed until March because of insecurity.
Votes elsewhere will be counted in the coming days, with provisional results published on January 6 and the official results on January 15, followed by the next president’s inauguration on January 18.