Call on DRC to annul vote

2011-11-30 20:52

Kinshasa - For the past two days, Chantal Pande has set her alarm for 04:30, putting on her make-up and arriving before dawn at the polling station where she's been assigned to vote in Congo's momentous election.

Each day she waited from first light until nightfall, queuing at one of the 485 vote centres that as of Wednesday still had not received ballots in this giant nation attempting to organise its first election since the end of its civil war.

The government failed to print enough ballots, and even those that were printed were not delivered in time, causing millions of voters to be turned away.

"I want to vote. I made my choice and I want to express it. It's my right," said the unemployed mother of four, who sat inside a deserted polling station clasping a yellow purse in which she had carefully folded her voting card.

"I've been here everyday since 5. I'm discouraged. I'm losing hope. Do you think they'll bring the ballots?"

Already four of the 11 presidential candidates have called for the vote to be annulled. And in numerous rural areas, poll workers have been attacked and voting centres have been set on fire. Riot police have fought back angry mobs with tear gas including outside the cinder block school where Pande is registered.

The vote that began Monday is the first to be organised by the Congolese government instead of the international community. The election was supposed to mark another step toward peace, but if the results are not accepted by the population analysts fear it could drag Congo back into conflict.

Observers say they have documented irregularities and possible instances of attempted fraud, but there is not yet evidence that it is systemic. They say it's too early to say whether these anomalies are widespread enough to change the election's outcome.

Massive logistical challenge

Several believe the problem is largely technical, a result of the massive logistical challenge of reaching the remote corners of a nation as large as Western Europe where only 2% of the roads are paved and where ballot boxes need to be transported by foot on the heads of porters.

Especially worrying is the inflammatory rhetoric of opposition leaders who are already calling the vote fraudulent.

On Wednesday, another three candidates signed a statement calling for the vote to be annulled, joining politician Vital Kamerhe, the former speaker of parliament who issued a public letter demanding the ballot be cancelled.

Election commission president Daniel Ngoy Mulunda said that more than 99% of voting districts had functioned normally, and that only 485 out of 61 380 polling stations had been unable to complete voting due to missing ballots.

It might not be a large number overall, but the drama is playing out in places like the Boniface elementary school, a cinder block structure that serves as the central voting bureau in one of the capital's slums.

One of the classrooms' doors, a section of the school's wall and the wooden bunks have been destroyed by voters who finally reached the boiling point on Tuesday.

A full two days had passed, and porters finally arrived with bundles of ballots on their heads, skirting a pool of black mud that prevented the election commission from coming by car.

The crowd cheered, but when election officials counted what the porters had brought, they found just 600 ballots for 39 voting bureaus - an amount equal to 15 ballots for each polling station that is supposed to serve 300 registered voters.

The president of the voting district, Jacques Kabombo, came out to explain to the crowd that they could not start voting since they would run out of ballots immediately.

He says that in the scuffle that ensued, he thought he was going to get lynched.

"Every time I called the election commission, they said wait - no wait. It's coming, it's coming," he said. "The people rebelled. They pulled apart the wall of the school with their hands. I even lost the shoes on my feet."

  • jerry.kb - 2011-12-03 16:13

    Enough ballots papers were printed. But what do you do when the opposition candidate, the devil himself made sure the vote doesn't take place ? What did he not do through his people to make sure the whole process is disrutpted ? There was a time, before Mobutu fall, we thought this man was like our moise from the Bible , but we have seen that he is a maniac, a mad man. We know his people burnt down the elections materials, he "auto-proclaimed himself" President of the DRC while in RSA. He said elections were useless. Why do you over look all those details ? Was it a crime for Joseph Kabila to be the President of DRC ? The only president who so far has given hope for modernization of the whole country ?It is true that in general elections across the country were peaceful and results must be accepted by all.The same people who r crying "fool" are the one creating problems.Hang the bastards.

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