Denis Kadima, the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission kept his word, on December 2, 2022, during a visit to the Egmont Palace in Brussels, in front of the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, he announced that we should not expect to perfect elections. He was absolutely right and even far from the mark.
The first hours of the presidential and legislative elections on December 20 were particularly chaotic, and numerous testimonies on social networks and by telephone confirmed this very worrying situation which carries with it the seeds of political tension to come.
At the Kasongo institute in Masina/Petro-Congo (Kinshasa), tension is rising. The witnesses are voting. But, after them, only the 57 voters whose names are displayed will have the right to vote in a single open office, out of the six planned. Which creates nervousness… pic.twitter.com/FOmZixowfs
— Radio Okapi (@radiookapi) December 20, 2023
For weeks, observers and certain political opponents have been drawing the attention of political leaders and the CENI to the obvious unpreparedness of these elections. Several called for a “technical” postponement, even in the corridors of the presidency the tension was palpable between supporters of the orthodoxy of the electoral calendar, who knew they were supported by President Tshisekedi, and the followers of prudence who called for a break to be able to better prepare for this election.
DRC: MONUSCO will not be able to save the vote
Denis Kadima, the boss of the Ceni will have no problem recalling that he was held to a too tight schedule, pushed behind his back by the presidency, he could even try to highlight that he asked his government to mobilize two Antonovs and helicopters… knowing very well that no one could grant his wishes in the DRC.
Denis Kadima, the man imposed by Tshisekedi, the “international electoral expert”, was incapable of preparing this election.
Elections 2023: In the commune of Bandalungwa in Kinshasa, 6 centers visited by Radio Okapi reporters are waiting for electoral materials. The voters, disappointed, wait while others decide to take a look and come back later. pic.twitter.com/hogkD5bVBD
— Radio Okapi (@radiookapi) December 20, 2023
In Kinshasa, the testimonies are legion. Some polling stations did not open, many opened late (like at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in the center of the capital where the offices opened their doors at around 10:30 a.m., even though some voters had arrived to 5 a.m.) and those which were open regularly encountered operating problems.
But popular enthusiasm is present in the capital, the people of Kinshasa want to vote, some are already demanding an extension of the electoral day by several hours or several days to allow all voters to be able to express themselves.
The observation is the same in several large cities, such as Lubumbashi, capital of Haut-Kata, where despite the delays and hiccups, voters turned out massively to vote.
Violent scenes in rural areas
Many concerns have been reported across the country, no province is exempt from concerns.
In the Kwilu, at the stroke of midnight, a whaleboat went down the river in total darkness to try to drop off voting machines several tens of kilometers away. It is also in the former Grand Bandundu that several “pirate” voting machines were discovered among candidates close to the government. “We know that several thousand of these machines were placed with people close to those in power,” explains a candidate from Martin Fayulu’s Ecidé training, who presents himself as “prevented”. We will indeed remember that before launching at the last minute into the presidential election, Martin Fayulu had called on his supporters to boycott the legislative election.
Scenes of identical blatant crimes have been reported in several provinces, some have been very “documented” by social networks which were able to film these scenes of attempted cheating but also arrests and violent attacks on cheating candidates by voters who detected fraud, as in Lodja, in Sankuru, where voters destroyed several voting machines because they suspected widespread fraud.
In Manono, in the province of Tanganiyka, the office of the EP fataki 1 Center in Kiyambi was attacked by the Bakata-Katanga militia who opened fire and destroyed the machines. A polling station was set on fire in Mbandaka.
And the list is long. The first findings carried out by the Catholic and Protestant churches show that 3.37% of polling stations were not open throughout the country. 45.1% of machines had problems, while 9.8% of observers were not allowed access to the polling station. Finally, 7.83% of polling stations recorded cases of violence.
1.5 dollars per voice
In several places, the coinage of votes has also been reported. “Given the state of most voter cards, office managers have been instructed to be very forthcoming with voters. But this also means that the heads of polling stations could be tempted, at the end of the day, when the majority of voters have fulfilled their electoral duty, to vote in the name of those who did not show up,” explains a candidate approached by one of those office managers who offered to buy 2,000 votes. “The price of voice is 1.5 dollars. The office manager can therefore easily make $3,000 and the unscrupulous candidate, in a legislative election with many candidates and many lists, which means a wide dispersion of votes, can really hope to be elected in his rural constituency with 2,000 votes preferred. The president of the polling station even predicted that in the event of rain, the mobilization of voters would be less and could allow him to have more votes to cash in on. »
The candidate will not say if he succumbed to temptation…
Cardinal Ambongo, who voted at Raphaël College in Limete, highlighted the many hiccups encountered by the CENI process. “I see that out of 11 offices, there are only 4 that are working so far, the others have machine and battery problems. Solutions will have to be found quickly, otherwise the elections will extend over several days,” he explained, while emphasizing the “desire” of the Congolese to be able to express their vote…