The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC has been under the fires of rebellions for more than a decade. The wars that the country has been experiencing were a hard moment for Congolese. The first free election in 2006, since the DRC got its independence in 1960 brought Joseph Kabila at the head of the country for five years. This year, November 28, a new election was organized. Incumbent president Kabila affronted 10 other president candidates among whom the eternal opponent Tshisekedi Etienne. At the same day legislative election was also held; there were 500 seats for which more than 1800 individuals were running. Such a big number has surprised people around the world but simply this is explained by the fact that since no other job is well paying like politics in the DRC, people have decided to be involved in it and also no serious follow up is done to the DRC politicians.
Back to the election, throughout the whole DRC, polling has been marred by violence and accusations of massive fraud. Despite this, some areas organise peaceful election ; this is the case of Uvira, Bukavu and many other places. Nevertheless, there are several reports that confirm that many polling stations throughout the country did not receive election materials as of the day of election. This particularly happened in places where there are still combats like in some parts of North Kivu.
Some provinces experienced murders of people. In North Kivu some people could not find their names on the polling lists at the places where they registered but they appeared in another area. This happened in Kichanga, North Kivu where people from Goma had to go to that place in order to vote. They climbed onto trucks to go there but unfortunately overturned and there were dead people. In Lubumbashi, up to a dozen of people were killed when armed men opened fire on several polling stations.
In the capital city Kinshasa, the voting day was very stressful since the governor decided to cancel all demonstrations on the last day of campaigning. This infuriated many UDPS supporters; there were several violent clashes between the police and Tshisekedi supporters. The EU condemned the cancellation as a violation of free speech and free assembly.
The allegations of voting fraud have mostly been about the following: ballots where Joseph Kabila’s name has already been checked, ballot boxes being already half-full even before the polls opened, poll stations opening late or not opening at all, observers not being allowed to monitor polling stations and inspect ballot boxes, voters not finding their names on the registration lists, soldiers blocking access to polling stations or forcing people to vote their way, and tampering with ballot boxes after they had been collected. In some cases, accusations of fraud have lead to polling stations being attacked by angry mobs in North Kivu and the Kasai Provinces. The irregularities are occurring in many places across the whole of the country, according to one observer.
According to the BBC, voting has been extended in some areas, due to polling stations opening late and ballots not arriving. In one part of Kinshasa, the legislative ballots were a staggering 13 pages long; the amount of resources needed to put on this election at rather short notice has been overwhelming. In particular, there are concerns about how accessible rural polling stations have been in a country with so few roads.
Checking the latest headlines, both the CENI (Congolese electoral commission) and UN envoy Roger Meece are so far satisfied with the way elections were held in the country. Nonetheless, I think everyone knew going into Election Day that things would be rough, and fortunately so far it has not been as bad as it could have been, considering historical precedence. However, we all know that Congo or any country, for that matter deserves better.
After yesterday’s somewhat guardedly optimistic blog about Congolese Election Day, it is becoming clearer that many Congolese people are unhappy about the voting process and the possible outcome, and many more are fearful of violent reactions from political groups.
When being close to the NY Times, the head of CENI is threatening to disqualify thousands of opposition votes, due to attacks on polling stations in areas mostly loyal to Etienne Tshisekedi and other opposition candidates. This, along with all the stories of voting fraud and violence filtering in from around the country, is sure to leave many Congolese feeling disenchanted with the entire process. In addition, many international observers have described the voting process as chaotic and “problematic”. A few independent organizations have publicly denounced voting irregularities.
In even more interesting news, the BBC is reporting that 4 opposition candidates, including Vital Kamerhe, are declaring the entire election fraudulent and demanding an annulment of the results. These candidates are specifically accusing the CENI and Joseph Kabila of being responsible for voting irregularities (see the link for a list of the alleged irregularities). Again, potentially troubling, as further delays and further mistrust in the process may signal an increase in violent confrontations between opposition supporters and state security elements.
Despite what has happened in the DRC during this great election, people need change because they have been tired of long lasting wars that imperilled the country’s economy, killed a lot of people, particularly the women who died the injuries due to rapes, mutilation and beating. We wish peace is restored in the DRC.