DRC: Chaos, confusion and anger in the face of a frankly fraudulent process

DRC: Chaos, confusion and anger in the face of a frankly fraudulent process

While many Congolese were still voting this Thursday, the first results were appearing and already raising questions.

Second day of voting in the Democratic Republic of Congo this Thursday, December 21. A second “round” in many offices due to the incapacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) chaired by Denis Kadima, the man imposed on this position by President Félix Tshisekedi.

On Wednesday, the first findings of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (Cenco) were clear. A third of the 75,000 polling stations were unable to accommodate a single voter across the entire national territory on Wednesday. In the 50,000 polling stations open, the observers deployed by the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church (when they were able to do their work, ten percent of the stations prohibited the presence of these observers) found that 45% of the machines to vote were experiencing technical problems. Testimonies collected in different provinces indicate that some of these concerns were notably linked to the lack of electricity to power the voting machines. The Ceni had planned generators but, according to these testimonies, many groups did not have the fuel necessary for their proper functioning. This gave rise to surreal scenes where voters – often very poor but determined to exercise their right to vote – joined forces to buy the few liters of gasoline to allow the machines to operate. “The CENI swallowed up more than a billion dollars to organize these elections but what did it do with this money?” asks Mamie, 45, a voter in Kwilu, in the west of the country. “This money was in any case not used to pay the CENI agents who, for many, struggle to receive their salaries,” she continues.

Figures already disputed

Polling stations that were able to welcome voters but generally experienced these technical problems often opened their doors well beyond 5 p.m., the time initially scheduled for the closing of votes. Certain images of offices lit with flashlights and office managers with headlamps have made the rounds on the web. This Thursday, the Congolese who were unable to vote the day before returned to the polling stations following the one-day extension decreed by Denis Kadima. But despite this extension, all the problems were far from resolved.

Despite this general fiasco, the first results began to be displayed this Thursday, polling station by polling station, as provided for by Congolese electoral law. But the first figures displayed are not without raising serious questions. Indeed, according to article 67 of the electoral law, the results which must be displayed are those of the manual counting of ballot boxes. However, those which were visible this Thursday were generally the figures obtained electronically. The CENI explained this Tuesday, on the eve of the election, on the occasion of the inauguration of its Kinshasa headquarters, that it would use this electronic data “to save time” but that in the event of a difference between this figure and that obtained by manual counting, there would be a “reconciliation” of the results and that it would be, as provided for by law, manual counting which would be favored. However, in several offices which displayed these figures obtained electronically, the manual counting had simply not been started and, obviously, according to the testimonies, it was not planned.

This circumvention of article 67 of the electoral law obviously raises all the challenges. “Everyone knows that it is easy to tinker with the numbers electronically, which is why we kept a paper ballot and ballot boxes,” explains a member of Moïse Katumbi’s Ensemble pour la République party. So far, the figures “produced” in this way offer – unsurprisingly – a great advantage to the presidential candidate.

Call for popular mobilization

In the ranks of the opposition, from Wednesday evening, a quintet of presidential candidates, led by MM. Fayulu and Mukwege, strongly criticized the organization of this election and called for the organization of a new election managed by a new CENI. Not a word, on the other hand, on the responsibility of the President of the Republic, who is nevertheless guarantor of the proper functioning of the State and solely responsible for the appointment of Mr. Kadima as president of this body.

In the ranks of Moïse Katumbi’s team, we note the same dysfunctions but we especially insist on popular mobilization, the desire to “breakup” with power. “While awaiting the publication of the results by the Ceni, we invite the Congolese people to be vigilant, in accordance with article 64 of the Constitution to defeat the outgoing power which wants to maintain itself by force. explains the press release signed by Moïse Katumbi, Augustin Matata Ponyo, Delly Sessanga, Franck Diongo and Seth Kikuni.

The FCC, political platform of lifelong senator and former President of the Republic Joseph Kabila, did not hold back from criticizing this chaotic electoral process. It was easy for him to point out that he had decided very early on to boycott this election as the beginnings were a harbinger of all the abuses observed on December 20. A press release which did not fail to arouse its share of reactions, particularly in diplomatic posts in Kinshasa. “The experience that the FCC boasts of, evoking the organization of a referendum and three successful electoral cycles could make one smile if it were not ultimately at the origin of the catastrophe that we are experiencing today. No electoral cycle has ever been successful in the DRC. We will leave the FCC with the benefit that the democratic exercises it has carried out have never been as catastrophic as what we are experiencing today.”, explained a Western diplomat on Thursday. “There is here an obvious desire to spoil the process disguised behind false amateurism. Everything was knowingly orchestrated,” continued one of his colleagues, “very worried about the very future of the country.”

In the head of the Ceni, President Kadima never mentioned the chaos of the electoral day, contenting himself with noting a few scattered failures, while announcing that the poll would be extended by one day, insisting on his determination to allow all Congolese voters to express their choice. An attitude which aroused the anger and indignation of a number of voters who spent long hours waiting in front of closed polls and who were preparing Thursday morning to return to the queues. “This gentleman, sitting comfortably, well cool, violates article 52 of the electoral law which says that the vote must be held on one day, and he does not have a word for the millions of Congolese who wasted their time by his fault and who, this Thursday, will sometimes have to travel miles to vote and will not be able to work. We are being made fun of,” explains a Kinshasa lawyer.