Just weeks before elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), international organisations had warned that the province of North Kivu in eastern DRC was susceptible to pre-electoral violence, as political instability mounted in the region.
At the heart of North Kivu is the capital of Goma, a city bordering Rwanda and one that would struggle to escape any developing conflict in the province.
In spite of clashes in Kinshasa over the weekend, and violence in Lubumbashi on Monday, Goma remained calm and mostly incident-free.
In much of the country there are murmurs of vote-rigging, missing ballot sheets, absent names from voter rolls and a possible backlash in days to come – pending results that fail to match the aspirations of the majority.
Yet on Monday, Goma seemed like a city determined to bury its demons, despite poor organisation, miscommunication between electoral officials and searing midday heat.
|1) Many left home before dawn and had started lining up in queues by the time the sun was up [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|2) The Independent Electoral Commission was mostly unprepared for crowds that had already gathering outside polling centers [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|3) The polls took some time to begin, but hundreds wasted no time gathering rapidly in polling stations across Goma [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|4) Voters came with their families and were prepared for a long day in the sun [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|5) The DRC presidential ballot sheet – the most talked about slip of paper south of the equator [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|6) By midday, voters had multiplied and soon enough crowds were larger than the space available in the polling complex [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|7) Outside polling stations, budding entrepreneurs brought supplies to energise the electorate [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|8) It is difficult to quantify what this vote means to millions of Congolese desperate for a better life [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|9) Much of Goma remained empty as hundreds of thousands of its residents cast their ballots [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|10) Predictably, scuffles broke out at certain polling stations as thousands became frustrated at the slow pace of voting [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|11) Many registered voters were left off the voting roll and most returned home without voting [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|12) Voters continued to flock to stations throughout the day, with some stations forced to operate beyond 7pm [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
|13) The next phase has already begun, though the election commission has announced that voting will continue [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]|
Find more coverage of the Congo Elections on our spotlight page DRC Decides.
Follow Azad Essa on Twitter: @AzadEssa