Congo's Capital Returns to Relative Calm

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Businesses reopened and people reappeared on the streets of Congo's capital Wednesday as a cease-fire appeared to have stopped three days of fighting between troops loyal to the country's two presidential candidates.

The fighting erupted after officials announced President Joseph Kabila failed to win an outright majority in Congo's first balloting in more than four decades, meaning he would face former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in a second round of voting. At least 14 people were reported killed Sunday, but no casualty figures were available for the ensuing two days.

CountryWatch: Congo (DRC)

Heavy gunfire rang out before dawn Tuesday and fighting raged for hours, then appeared to tail off after the United Nations, with 17,500 peacekeepers in Congo, demanded a halt to hostilities and the European Union sent reinforcements.

"The cease-fire is holding, so far," U.N. spokesman Kemal Saiki said Wednesday morning. "Transportation is back to normal."

There were cars on the streets of Kinshasa, though much fewer than normal. Vendors opened their stalls, and people walked along the streets around Bemba's house, the scene of violence Tuesday.

U.N. envoy William Lacey Swing was trying to broker peace talks, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

Witnesses said Kabila's special presidential guards, who wear black uniforms and red berets, had withdrawn from outside Bemba's house, where Swing and other diplomats had been meeting with Bemba when fighting erupted outside Monday. EU and U.N. troops evacuated the foreign envoys.

Aides said Kabila ordered his loyalists back to their barracks and that Bemba, who is also a vice president in Kabila's national-unity government, had done similarly.

The U.N. said all Congo army troops had been ordered back to their original positions and that international troops had begun patrolling Kinshasa's street alongside Congo's police Tuesday night.

Fusalba said 180 German and Irish troops arrived Tuesday in Kinshasa from Gabon, joining a contingent of 50 French, Portuguese and Swedish troops who arrived overnight with attack and transport helicopters.

About 1,000 EU troops were already in Congo helping the U.N. peace force last month oversee the first elections in 45 years of coups, corrupt rule and war.

Even with the possible end to fighting that saw Kabila's forces using tanks against Bemba's fighters, deep-rooted enmities remain in Congo's armed forces. Congo has some 100,000 troops.

With 16.9 million votes cast in the July 30 ballot, Kabila won 45 percent of the votes against 20 percent for Bemba. The remainder of the vote was shared among 31 other candidates.

The United Nations and its partners have spent more than $500 million on the vote, setting up 50,000 voting stations in a country the size of Western Europe with few paved roads.

The elections are meant to end years of unrest that began shortly after independence from Belgium in 1960. Congo's last multiparty vote for a leader was in 1961. The winner was killed as military regimes took power.