Tuesday 29 November 2011

Post-election worries

Congolese and international observers, first suspected, and then documented numerous irregularities in the electoral process. The big day has passed; today, reports describe the situation as being relatively calm.

Tomorrow will bring other problems – ntango eza ndeko ya liwa. Giving some examples of these irregularities will help frame what the ambiance will be once results are announced.

Compared to the 2006 vote, this one was more violent and fewer voters cast their ballot. MONUSCO and other international observers witnessed attempts to cheat.

Reporting from Goma, Cindy McCain - founding member of the Eastern Congo Initiative and wife of Arizona Senator John McCain - referred to technical difficulties from the polling stations that were clearly organized.

The electoral process initiated in 2006 legitimized poor leadership. Kabila used his first five-year term to consolidate power at the expense of the Congolese people. His position as incumbent, plus the money generated by the selling off of state assets at bargain prices, enabled him to dominate the campaign landscape.

Candidate Kabila had a disproportionate access to state media.

Kabila illegally used state planes, jeeps and helicopters while on the campaign trail.

The state security forces under Kabila’s control systematically obstructed opposition candidates from campaigning – notably Etienne Tshisekedi.

Kabila’s clansman Pastor Ngoy Mulunda, head of the Commission électorale indépendante, was partisan, not independent.

Fictitious polling stations and pre-marked ballot papers were discovered. Stuffing the ballot boxes is not uncommon in Africa, but inventing fictitious polling stations seems to be a new twist on Congolese creativity.

The Belgian company Zetes organized the high tech services needed for voter registration. Zetes reported that hundreds of thousands of voters were registered twice.

Some European Union election observers were withdrawn from polling stations on election day for their own security, testifying to the potential for things to explode.

Some opposition candidates – but not Tshesikedi - have called for the annulment of the elections because of these irregularities.

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