The United Nations (UN) has expressed concern that a devastating fire in a warehouse holding electoral materials, including voting machines, could hamper the holding of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A blaze at a warehouse of the Independent National Electoral Commission in the capital Kinshasa destroyed thousands of voting machines and ballot boxes a week before crucial presidential and legislative elections on December 23.

Reports suggest some 8 000 of just over 10 000 machines were destroyed in the fire.

The Secretary General’s spokesperson Farhan Haq says that the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

“Preliminary reports indicate that polling station kits from Kinshasa and a large number of voting machines and other electoral materials were destroyed in the fire. A Monusco fire-fighting unit was rapidly deployed to the scene and helped to extinguish the fire. So far, the details surrounding the cause of the fire are unknown. We have been very clear, including through the head of the mission there Leila Zerouggui, on our concerns about any actions taken by various parties that could impede the holding of elections on the ground and we are encouraging all parties to assist in the holding of free and fair elections. Obviously, any sort of incident like this is a cause for concern in that respect.”

The DRC Presidency office says preparations for the vote will still go ahead as planned on December 23 despite the fire.

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