Voting Machines Destroyed In Fire As Congo Elections Near

President Joseph Kabila

“The voting machine is not a big problem,” said a confident Salomon Bagheni, a resident of the town of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The essential thing is holding the elections on Dec. 23 to bring new leadership to this country.”

By “new leadership,” Bagheni meant a new head of state after 18 years of one man rule. President Joseph Kabila – the dominating figure of Congolese politics – had defied the constitutionally allowed limit of two 5 year terms and appeared set to remain in power. Opposition by civil and human rights groups finally pushed him to promise free elections which critics are observing cautiously.

The Kabila years were marked by incessant conflict, lethal crackdowns on pro-democracy activists, rape used as a weapon of war, theft and corruption that the government acknowledges accounted for a loss of billions of dollars of national income, according to Human Rights Watch. The N.Y.-based group further found that 500 opposition supporters were killed and 1,000 were arrested during the two years since Kabila’s election.

With the recent burning of some 7,000 voting machines in an election commission warehouse in Kinshasa, new fears have been sparked that President Kabila will pull strings so that his handpicked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, will take over. Two popular candidates of the opposition have already been stripped of their eligibility to run. This has disappointed the European Union which has imposed sanctions on Shadary over violent crackdowns on protests and repeated delays to the election.

The new voting machines were made by a South Korean company and were said to be easy to jerry-rig. They could also pose a technical nightmare in a nation of more than 40 million voters where just 9 percent of Congo has electricity and dozens of rebel groups are active.

“We cannot accept people inventing stories that trample our constitution,” said Clovis Mutsuva, a Beni resident with the LUCHA activist organization.

Meanwhile, some 21,000 facilitators are being trained to use the new voting machines which will be introduced in cities, remote towns, Bantu communities and places like Beni that are essentially war zones.

 

Source via Global Information Network

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