Reporters on the Job

Campaigning Congolese Style: Given that the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo haven't voted in an election worth the name for over four decades it's perhaps not surprising that when their chosen candidates come to town things get a bit wild.

Thursday, in the eastern town of Bukavu, a senior representative of presidential front-runner Joseph Kabila's party arrived in a tinted-glass four-wheel-drive vehicle.

"Hundreds filled the street," says reporter Tristan McConnell. "All around me was yellow and the smiling face of Mr. Kabila gazing out from stickers on handbags, and from sheets of bright printed fabric, called kikwembe." All this merchandise has been handed out to cheering supporters during the election campaign, says Tristan.

"Among the crowds that began parading the potholed streets of Bukavu in the morning were the South Kivu Rastas with their matted dreadlocks, and the traditional dancers draped in animal furs, thrusting spears in time to the drums.

"The crowd was good-natured and the spears weren't a worry. The most aggressive presence as the sun began to set were the Robocop-like riot police who lined the road, wearing black body armor, and the UN troops, a constant presence on the streets of Bukavu, riding about in the Land Rovers, machine guns at the ready."

Activist's Lawyer: Xu Zhiyong is a committed young man, says staff writer Robert Marquand. He helped write a national law based on one of China's most important legal cases. "The case was a call to arms for China's legal scholars and liberal intellectuals," says Bob. "It could have happened to anyone: an architecture student, mistaken for a migrant worker, got caught in the system and was beaten to death. The outrage resulted in the passage of the law, which is one of the few that has really taken hold and caused a change in police behavior."

Xu runs a legal outfit from Beijing University. "He has never been able to talk to his new client, Chen," Bob says. "But he is a very persistent guy, very low-key and realistic. Having reported on the US Supreme Court, I've seen lawyers who have a real zeal for the law, and he is one of them."

Matthew Clark
Africa/Americas editor

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