A soldier stands below the statue of Moise Tshombe

LUBUMBASHI, D. R. Congo | AFP - The statue of Moise Tshombe stands in the heart of Lubumbashi, capital of the mineral-rich province of Katanga and the DR Congo's second city, both his arms reaching into the skies.

In the shade of the bronze monument dedicated to the former president of what was, briefly in the early 1960s, an independent Katanga, sit a dozen of President Joseph Kabila's Republican Guards, armed with a mix of small assault rifles, heavy machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Standing on the other side of the statue, under a brutal midday sun, a group of photographers hustle passers-by, earning a few hundred Congolese francs for a snapshot taken in front of the square's fountain.

This contrast between a heavy security force presence and the flow of everyday life has become the norm in the Democratic Republic of Congo's industrial capital as it waits for election officials to declare the winner of the country's November 28 polls.

That day, as thousands cast their ballots across the city, the sound of gunfire ripped through the Bel-Air district when gunmen attacked a polling station. Across town, the smouldering remains of ballot papers lay in a ditch after the convoy carrying them was ambushed by armed men.

The attack was claimed by a separatist group descended from Tshombe's independence movement. The southeastern city was also gripped by running street battles during the campaign, as rival supporters of Kabila and top opponent Etienne Tshisekedi clashed downtown, shattered shop windows and mugged pedestrians.

The bloodshed is enough to make some nostalgic for kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, the country's ruler from 1965 to 1997. "Under Mobutu, we were united," says Marciel Banza, a money changer in the city centre. "But now, we are divided."

The long wait for the vote result, originally due Tuesday but postponed to Thursday, has the city of 1.5 million people on edge. "People are not happy here," says another money changer. "They voted but the results are not ready."

The provincial headquarters of Tshisekedi's party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, are closed, with riot police blocking off both ends of the central street. On Monday, police clashed with party members outside the offices, and have restricted access to the entire road since. Twelve young men remain inside, claiming they cannot leave to fetch food, something police deny.

The provincial governor has ordered all party headquarters in the business district closed, though the pro-Kabila UNAFEC party still held its regular meeting there this week. Despite the governor's order, the atmosphere is volatile.

"For us, it's Tshisekedi or nothing," says Bruno Mbuta, a supporter of the veteran opposition leader.

"If it's not him, we'll act like in Tunisia or Egypt." Tuesday night, as the results were expected, many businesses, including the cinema, closed early, fearing unrest. Bars that are usually full with the after-work crowd were half-empty.

But the two-day delay succeeded in restoring some normality to the city. The Kenya District, known locally as "the red zone" because of its propensity to be the tinderbox of the city, has been calm, a resident says.

It was in this area that street fighting between supporters of rival political camps started as the election campaign drew to a close. Some 1,500 police and 64 military police have been deployed around Lubumashi to keep the peace, plus army troops and Kabila's guard.

"After 7:00 at night, we see the soldiers driving around," says Tresor Mola, a medical student working in a local pharmacy. "I feel reassured by that. "As we are a young democracy, it's normal that there are some difficulties," he adds. "It's pointless to wreak havoc."

Thursday evening, he will tune in his radio to hear the results. "We are still waiting," he says. "In reality, people are scared."