File photo of Congo"s President Joseph Kabila addressing a news conference in Kinshasa, March 26, 2007. REUTERS

Election campaigning began in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday and organisers said the polls will go ahead on November 28 despite concerns over whether preparations have been adequate.

Planning for the presidential and legislative elections has been dogged by logistical problems and spiralling costs as organisers race to deploy thousands of tonnes of electoral kit in the vast and unstable Central African nation.

More than 180,000 ballot boxes have yet to arrive from China and ballot papers are still being printed in South Africa, but the elections will be held on time, said Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, the president of the electoral commission, known as CENI.

My friends, we are more than ready... We will not have a delay, he said told a news conference on Thursday evening to launch the month-long campaign.

The decision not to order foldable ballot boxes could make them harder to transport, according to Fidel Sarassoro, deputy head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which is helping with logistics.

The sooner we have all the information from CENI the better, he said. It's going to be very tight but it's still possible.

Many people remain very very reluctant to believe both polls will happen on time, said Albert Moleka, spokesman for the veteran politician and leading opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi.

Tshisekedi will not accept delaying the presidential vote but putting back the parliamentary election is possible if that were to prove necessary, Moleka said.

The Congolese people don't want some kind of devalued elections, they want fair, transparent and credible elections.

Many observers and diplomats fear that staging the votes separately would hand a landslide victory to the new president when parliamentary polls are held. Previously the opposition has rejected the idea.


Eleven candidates are vying for the presidency and more than 18,000 are due to run for parliament. President Joseph Kabila is favourite to be re-elected despite facing stiff opposition from Tshisekedi and a former ally, Vital Kamerhe.

The campaign got off to a slow start in Congo's sprawling and ramshackle capital, with only a few scattered political posters to be seen on Friday morning, most backing Kabila.

Dozens of youths gathered outside the offices of the ruling PPRD party, where they were being handed Kabila 100 percent flags and motorcycles painted in the party's yellow colours.

The opposition is suffering from a lack of funds said Lord Ngwakana, one of a handful of Tshisekedi supporters singing anti-Kabila songs outside their party headquarters.

In time things will get better, it is totally natural that there's some timidity at the start, he said, adding that clashes between rival supporters were likely as polling day approaches.

Pre-electoral violence is already on the rise, according to a statement on Friday signed by more than 40 local and international NGOs, whilst Human Rights Watch warned politicians against using hate speech in their campaigns.

Candidates who incite violence could provoke a bloody election campaign, and judicial authorities need to step in to stop it, HRW's senior Africa researcher Anneke van Woudenberg said in a statement.

CENI's Mulunda urged politicians to respect the law in the run-up to voting day but said the elections would be peaceful.

There will be no war, there will be no trouble, he said. There won't even be rain on November 28, we're going to stop it. I've already started praying for that.