Afp: DR Congo scrambles to get ready for polls
KINSHASA — Four days from elections that some analysts doubt it can pull
off on time, the DR Congo was rushing Thursday to overcome the challenges
of crumbling infrastructure and a territory two-thirds the size of western
Monday's presidential and parliamentary polls are only the Democratic
Republic of Congo's second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003, and
the scars from those conflicts -- together with the country's massive size
-- mean election officials face a raft of logistical headaches.
The election commission has set itself a Friday deadline to deliver 186,000
ballot boxes and more than 64 million ballot papers to nearly 64,000
polling stations, in a country of 2,345,000 square kilometres (906,000
square miles) -- 77 times the size of former colonial ruler Belgium.
Commission chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda said he is confident his team can make
the deadline, with the help of 80 aircraft hired from private companies as
well as the combined support of the United Nations, South Africa and
"The objective is to reach 100 percent of the voting sites by November 25
at the latest. We think that with the combination of different means of
transport and all the systems we've put in place, we'll make that
deadline," Mulunda told journalists Wednesday.
But as recently as 10 days ago, Mulunda's top deputy said organisers could
need more time.
"If we're not ready, we'll ask for a few days and hold the elections on
December 2 or 5," said Jacques Djoli, vice president of the National
Independent Election Commission (CENI).
The sheer size of the task is daunting.The DRC has 32,024,640 registered
voters, up from 25 million at the last polls, in 2006. CENI has responded
by expanding the number of voting stations to 63,865, up from some 55,000
The number of candidates is also a record: 18,835 contesting 500 seats in
the national assembly, up from about 9,600.
In Kinshasa alone, there are 5,491 candidates for 51 seats. One of the
capital's four constituencies has a 56-page ballot.
There are 11 presidential contenders, down from 33 in 2006.
In a bit of good news, Mulunda announced Wednesday that all the ballot
papers had arrived from South Africa, where they were printed.
But in a country with a crumbling and limited road network, getting them to
polling stations is a challenge -- not to mention the ballot boxes
themselves, which were made in China and, at one metre (yard) tall,
resemble giant trash bins.
The budget for the entire election cycle -- single-round presidential and
national assembly votes Monday, plus local, provincial and senate elections
in 2013 -- keeps growing, and currently stands at $1.1 billion (823 million
Amid the logistical chaos, the CENI has faced accusations of fraud.
A leaked report by Belgian company Zetes, contracted by the government to
issue biometric voter cards, said there were hundreds of thousands of
"ghost voters" on the register, mainly in strongholds of incumbent
president Joseph Kabila.
The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) -- the party of Etienne
Tshisekedi, Kabila's top rival for the presidency -- also accused the CENI
Wednesday of creating "fictitious" polling stations.
"There has been a systematic fraud organised in massive fashion," UDPS
secretary general Jacquemin Shabani told journalists, saying more than half
the stations don't exist.
The CENI denied the allegation.
"When there's a polling station that's in the wrong place on the map, it's
not an attempt to cheat," said Mulunda.
Radio Netherland: DRC elections: money talks
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there are more than 18,000
candidates competing for 500 parliamentary seats, in the November 28
legislative elections. Two business-minded housewives in the capital,
Kinshasa, have found a lucrative way to profit from the situation.
“In the beginning, we wanted to understand why there were so many
candidates in the legislative elections. We thought it was important to
approach those candidates, talk to them and offer to organise a meeting
with their potential constituency”, explains housewife Naomi Tambaram, who
is outspoken and highly inquisitive.
Turning necessity into virtue
With their dynamism and popularity in their locality, Naomi and her friend
Zeta have managed to gather a large crowd for the meetings of a dozen
candidates in the Yolo-North neighbourhood.
“We do not only gather the people. We talk to the candidates beforehand and
give them a few tips on the type of speeches they should deliver. We know
whether or not the audience supports the opposition, therefore we guide the
candidates to ensure that they win the hearts of the people”, the women
Sardou Lumbu, a parliamentary candidate, has used the organisers for his
campaign. “Due to the limited means we received from the party, we were
advised to work mostly with family members, friends and any influential
individuals we knew. I organised two meetings with such influential people,
hoping that their influence will earn me votes in the polls”, admits
Sardou. “I know that many people who come are undecided over which way to
vote, but one should bear in mind that a beautiful speech always wins
votes”, adds the parliamentary candidate.
The price of support
On 28 November, voters in the Funa constituency in Kinshasa will elect 12
representatives, from a pool of 1,150 candidates, to stand in parliament
for the next five years. These voters are aware that the candidates are
prepared to do whatever it takes to wins their votes.
“When a candidate wants an audience of 50 people, for example, he or she
should provide t-shirts, drinks and most importantly hard cash (a little
over 3 Euros per person) for the participants. Moreover, I have to entice
the people with gifts, otherwise no one will come”, explains Amos Kabongo,
a teacher who earns between 38 and 75 Euros from each meeting he organises.
But a large turn out at candidate meetings does not necessarily translate
into votes, especially as the organisers use gifts to draw in the crowds.
“I’ve been to three meetings. Of course, the gifts are always welcome, but
I attend the meetings for entertainment. I haven’t chosen a candidate yet,
but whenever there is a meeting somewhere in the neighbourhood, I go and
listen to a potential member of parliament. It allows me to make a better
choice because we get to ask the candidates questions”, explains Dechris,
who manages a telephone kiosk.
There is no denying that as the elections draw closer, DRC presidential
candidates will do whatever it takes to improve their chances, even if it
means breaking the piggybank.