Congo’s Presidential election could be doorway to peace

By October 25, 2006

D.R. Congo (MNN/WV) — An upcoming runoff election in a vast country in the heart of Africa could be the chance of a lifetime for the nation, and some say, the whole continent.

Nearly 4 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have died since 1998 — a tragedy largely ignored by the rest of the world.

Conflicts in the DRC led to what some called the “First World War” of Africa as it pulled in rebel forces from at least seven neighboring countries.

The October 29 election runoff, part of the first free election in more than 40 years, could bring regional stability and peace.

A peace accord was signed three years ago, but sporadic fighting continues. UNICEF reports more than 600 children die in DRC every day due to conflict and disease, and even more are displaced, sexually abused or taken into combatant camps.

At least 1.7 million people have been displaced by conflicts and 450,000 live as refugees in other countries. There are between 20,000 and 30,000 child soldiers in the country.

Recently, World Vision and other humanitarian groups reported to the U-S Congress that the DRC “is the site of an ignored humanitarian catastrophe, but it is also a latent regional powerhouse — and 2006 presents the best chance in a long time to end the catastrophe and realize the country’s potential.”

In the DRC, a presidential candidate needs more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright. No winner came out of the first round of elections held July 30.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila won 45 percent of the vote. He calls himself an “artisan of peace” and sought a peaceful end to the civil war. He has support in the east, the region with conflict, but is unpopular in the capital, Kinshasa. His closest opponent, former rebel chief Jean-Pierre Bemba, won 20 percent of the vote

The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world. Rebel groups and the national army have been battling over the nation’s mineral wealth and other valuable natural resources.

The country is vast — larger than the states of Alaska and Texas combined. Much of the land is jungle and there are only 300 miles of paved road.

World Vision is now working in relief projects in eastern Congo and development projects in west and southwestern Congo. In recent years, World Vision has distributed relief aid for thousands of refugees, and food aid for undernourished children.

They do this as the hands and feet of Christ, praying that through this testimony many will turn to Him.

World Vision is asking you to help support their work by sponsoring a HopeChild, which will allow them to do even more. Contact World Vision using their information listed here for sponsorship details.

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