Stakeholders remain committed to electoral process in DRC

Ballot papers
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Despite the persistence of discord regarding voting machines and the reliability of the electoral register, all stakeholders remain committed to the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is according to the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to the country and head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission Monusco, during a briefing to the UN Security Council in New York.

However, Leila Zerrougui also warned of the potential for armed groups to interference in the elections, specifically in areas throughout the east of the country.

It is 40 days until the Congolese go to the polls and while the process unfolds towards the December 23 deadline, there are concerns that many parts of the country will face a volatile security environment.

“There is a potential for armed group interference in elections in specific areas throughout eastern DRC – particularly in Tanganyika, South Kivu, and the Grand and Petit Nord areas of North Kivu. Armed group violence in these key provinces could affect the secure deployment of electoral material and may prevent certain parts of the population from voting on election day, thus impacting the inclusivity of the process,” says Special Representative and Head Monusco Leila Zerrougui.

Areas like Beni in the North Kivu region face both armed groups like the ADF and Mai Mai while also confronting an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 200 people already.

The UN has lauded the efforts of the DRC Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and humanitarian partners for doing a remarkable job under trying circumstances. But they warn that they are still seeing a growing number of cases in major population centres coupled with significant community resistance to response efforts.

Efforts remain on ensuring a credible process come 23 December.

“The political climate remains strained 41 days before the conduct of elections scheduled by the National Independent Electoral Commission  – CENI – this due to lack of full implementation of the new year’s agreement, primarily measures for political de-escalation. Six day, (ACAJ Association Congolaise d’Access a la Justice) remains alarmed by the detention of 41 political prisoners,” says Civil Society Activist and Lawyer Josephine Mbela.

The United States believes democracy in the DRC is poised for its greatest test.

“For any country struggling to govern itself, the peaceful transfer of power is a decisive moment. It is the moment when all the theory of representative government fades into the background, and decisions of real people in real situations come into the forefront,” says United States Ambassador Nikki Haley.

For his part, the DRC’s Ambassador said the process was unfolding smoothly and pointed to the rigorous testing of voting machines that opposition groups and international observers had raised doubts about.

“I am convinced that on the issue of the voting machines that these exchanges and the testing of the machines on the ground has allowed you to ensure that all of your doubts have been allayed, doubts which you might have had regarding their use. When you’re faced with 35 016 candidates for three elections that will be held at the same time, my delegation believes that the voting machines  in comparison to the electoral register of 54 pages with photo of all the candidates is manually easier for the voter to use,” says DRC Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta.

He assured the council that all candidates would enjoy political freedoms and freedom of expression during the campaigning period which begins in eight days.

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