Tuesday, December 25, 2018

DRC Poll Hub: Machine Will Protect Every Vote, CENI Boss Assures
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 
Africa News

CENI boss defends electronic transmission of results

Cornelle Nangaa, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Independent Electoral Commission, CENI, has reiterated the body’s defense for electronic voting machines despite resistance from opposition parties.

In an interview with French channel TV5Monde’s Journal Afrique, Nangaa said: “The (electronic) transmission will be there, but the result that will be announced is the result that comes from the ballots.

“Even without the machine vote, results were transmitted in 2006 and in 2011 by the voice of local population centers. This is the same procedure that continues,” he added.

Opposition parties, the Catholic Church, activists and the United States cautioned against the use of the machines which they said could lead to a rigged process. The ruling party and government have insisted it is the best way to secure the process.

The December 23 poll date was postponed by a week to December 30 due to an inferno that ravaged a warehouse with electoral equipments meant for the capital Kinshasa.

Nangaa dismissed claims that the postponement was deliberate, quizzing that what did CENI stand to gain in a space of seven days. He posited that the postponement was on legally sound grounds.

Opposition parties in Democratic Republic of Congo has warned against any further delays to Sunday’s scheduled presidential vote, saying election officials risk provoking trouble.

CENI announced the election, which has been delayed several times since 2016, would now take place on Dec. 30 due to a fire last week that destroyed voting materials.

UDPS secretary-general Jean-Marc Kabund told supporters that any further delays would not be accepted, and the new election date of Dec. 30 was “a red line”.

“If there is a delay of the election after the 30th, you don’t need to wait for our instructions,” Kabund said.

Felix Tshisekedi, a leading opposition candidate, had earlier urged his supporters to stay calm despite the electoral board’s (CENI) decision last Thursday to delay the vote by a week.

In remarks to the media and hundreds of chanting supporters, Tshisekedi accused the CENI, which the opposition says follows orders from the government, of trying to provoke his followers to protest in order to later accuse them of causing unrest.

“We are aware of this strategy. That’s why I ask you to remain calm and respect the position that we are announcing,” Tshisekedi said at the headquarters of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party.

The CENI has repeatedly defended itself against charges of bias and says it acts independently.

The poll is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in what would be Congo’s first democratic transition.

Regional blocs, SADC & ICGLR to meet in Brazzaville over upcoming vote

Two regional blocs in the southern and central African region have scheduled a meeting around the Democratic Republic of Congo’s upcoming elections.

Leadership of the Southern Africa Development Commission, SADC, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, ICGLR are set to meet on Wednesday in Congo Brazzaville.

The December 26 meeting is expected discuss the situation in the DRC as part of collective and joint efforts aimed at promoting peaceful elections and stability in the DRC.

Namibian president and SADC head, Hage Geingob is set to attend the meeting as well as host, Congo Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso and president of the ICGLR.

The two bodies have continually stressed the need for the DRC to conduct a standard process that will lead to peaceful power transfer. President Geingob “reminded that the DRC was vital for development in the sub-region, and that problems don’t have borders, and challenges in one country will affect neighbouring countries.”

The elections body, CENI, announced a postponement of the December 23 polls extending the date by a week. the new date is December 30, 2018. The opposition were slit on CENI’s move.

The main reason cited by the body was a blaze that destroyed majority of election materials at a warehouse in the capital, Kinshasa. Tensions have been high in the country during the campaigns as security forces routinely clashed with especially opposition supporters.

UN hopes for favorable conditions

The United Nations has welcomed the delay of Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election, with the hope that it will allow Congolese “to express themselves freely” during the ballot.

Presidential, legislative and provincial elections had been scheduled for Sunday in the vast, volatile African country, defusing a two-year crisis over the future of President Joseph Kabila.

But on Thursday the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) ordered the postponement, saying a warehouse fire had destroyed voting materials.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their hope that this delay will permit the creation of favorable conditions for the Congolese people to express themselves freely” on December 30, the 15-member Council said in a statement.

MONUSCO ready to help

In its statement, the Security Council reiterated the readiness of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, “to provide support if requested.”

Kinshasa has several times said it wants to organize the elections without financial aid or logistical support from the European Union or the UN.

The UN also “called on all parties to engage peacefully and constructively in the electoral process,” to ensure “a transfer of power in accordance with the Congolese Constitution and the 31 December 2016 Agreement.”

Coalitions divided over poll delay

Barely twenty-four hours after the elections body, CENI, announced a delay of the December 23 polls, main opposition candidates have reacted differently to the development.

Martin Fayulu, leader of the Lamuka coalition, said he disagreed with CENI’s position. “As far as I know, the president of the CENI said that come rain or shine there will be elections on December 23, 2018.

“So, I think we must expect these elections and we cannot accept that Mr. Naanga will change his position today,” Martin Fayulu said.

On the flip side, Felix Tshisekedi, leader of a two-man coalition called for calm on the part of his supporters and accepted the poll delay. He said his team will continue to campaign till next Friday ahead of the December 30 new date.

CENI cited the loss of electoral material to a blaze at a warehouse in the capital Kinshasa as the main reason for the delay. The delay has led to security forces breaking up protests in parts of the country.

DRC Coalitions: The race to Kinshasa via Geneva and Nairobi Follow our ‘Africa Elections page for more

CENI confirms poll delay

The electoral commision in Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday confirmed that it was postponing the presidential election scheduled for Sunday, to December 30, citing delays in deploying voting materials.

After a meeting with candidates in the capital, the electoral commission (CENI) said it had not been able to provide sufficient ballot papers for Kinshasa after a warehouse blaze last week destroyed much of the capital’s election material.

“We cannot organise general elections without the province of Kinshasa, and without the Kinois voters – who represent 10 percent of the electoral body,” CENI president Corneille Nangaa told journalists.

“The presidential, legislative and provincial ballots will take place on Dec. 30 2018.”

The decision may stoke already high tensions after several government crackdowns on opposition rallies.

After the announcement, a crowd outside CENI headquarters started shouting in protest and were pushed back by police.

CENI ‘technically unable’ to conduct election

One of the candidates who attended the meeting of presidential candidates with Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) on Thursday, says the president of the body told them CENI is not able to organize the vote on time.

Theodore Ngoy said in a text message to Reuters news agency, that CENI president Corneille Nangaa announced the commission was “technically unable” to hold the election on Sunday.

Ngoy added that the board president Corneille Nangaa cited a fire last week that destroyed ballot papers, an ongoing Ebola outbreak and ethnic violence as reasons for delaying the vote.

Earlier, another candidate Martin Fayulu told Reuters it would be unacceptable for the election to be pushed back.

“The CENI president said there will be an election rain or shine on the 23rd of December,” Fayulu said. “We cannot accept a change of Mr. Nangaa’s position today.”

Fayulu also criticised Wednesday’s decision by the governor of the capital city, Kinshasa, to suspend campaigns.

That decision was “manifestly illegal, we can’t respect it,” said Fayulu.

Campaigning had been due to end at midnight on Friday in what has boiled down to a race between Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and two main challengers, Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

Electoral commission summons candidates

Reports about the possible delay of Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election were further fuelled on Thursday after the electoral commission (CENI) summoned the candidates in Sunday’s presidential election to a meeting at the parliament building.

Marie-France Idikayi, a CENI spokeswoman, invited the candidates to an 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) meeting. Her message, sent on Wednesday, was seen by Reuters.

Idikayi denied media reports on Wednesday that CENI was considering postponing the election by a few days due to delays deploying voting materials to polling stations.

Congo election body mulls poll postponement

DRC’s long awaited polls has been delayed by two whole years but there exists a possibility to it been postponed the elections body, CENI has said.

CENI spokesperson, Pierre Kalamba told the BBC that the measure was possible if election materials are not ready to be deployed. According to him, a delay will serve a better purpose than to rush the process.

Materials expected to be used in the capital, Kinshasa, has been massively hit after a fire at a warehouse destroyed an estimated two-thirds. CENI had previously said it will replace all the materials in time for the vote.

Campaigning is expected to end on December 21, two clear days ahead of the December 23 vote. Already, the governor of Kinshasa has banned campaign activities in the capital citing security considerations.

Campaigning has been chaotic in parts of the country with opposition supporters clashing with law enforcement officers. Main opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu has also reported campaign trail muzzling by the government.

Congo election campaigning stopped in Kinshasa

Election campaigning in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been suspended for ahead of Sunday’s presidential vote for security reasons.

The city’s governor, Andre Kimbuta, said authorities have intelligence that radical elements in the camps of the main candidates planned to cause chaos during the campaigns.

“The information in our possession attests that in all the political camps of the main presidential candidates, extremists have prepared and are preparing for a street confrontation in the city of Kinshasa during election campaign activities,” Kimbuta said in a statement on Wednesday.

While Kitumba isa member of president Joseph Kabila’s ruling party, Kinshasa is an opposition stronghold.

The long-delayed election is meant to choose a successor for President Joseph Kabila, due to step down after 18 years in power, has been marred by deadly clashes between the police and opposition supporters during the campaigns.

Kimbuta added that the only way presidential candidates could campaign in Kinshasa would be through the media, where Shadary has a clear advantage due to a sizeable war chest and state or ruling party control of many media outlets.

Protesters disrupt Shadary rally, raid Kabila party office

Violence continues to disrupt the campaign process in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, as at least one person died as residents of Tshikapa protested against a planned rally by Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The unrest in Tshikapa, a city in the restive central Kasai region, also saw the presidential party’s headquarters being ransacked, according to witnesses.

Details of how the victim died in Tshikapa were still emerging, but one local NGO said soldiers had opened fire to disperse protesting crowds in the city and shot a market woman in the head.

“The soldiers, who were supporting the police, opened fire to disperse the demonstrators. A woman who was selling embers at the Sokajik market was hit in the head,” said the head of a Congolese NGO which was on site.

The violence comes after at least one other person was killed and more than 80 injured in weekend clashes in the city, the latest unrest in the tense build-up to the December 23 ballot.

The rally by Shadary, the “pro-Kabila” candidate, was cancelled after the violence.

“The candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary will reschedule the visit to Tshikapa tomorrow or the day after tomorrow after assessing the security situation,” one of his relatives told AFP.

Images of the raided presidential offices were widely shared on social media.

Video posts also showed hundreds of young people, some armed with sticks, marching and chanting on Tuesday against the arrival of Ramazani Shadary.

A number of people have been killed in pre-election violence since the beginning of campaigning on November 22.

Western governments are closely watching the election violence and vote outcome in the vast African state, which has never known a peaceful transfer of power since independence from colonial Belgium in 1960.

Martin Fayulu, leader of the Lamuka coalition in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, has called for a national debate between contestants in the December 23 elections.

His call comes four days to the end of campaigning, December 21, and under a week to the opening of voting centers. According to Fayulu, the occasion will help candidates share their ideas with voters.

He made the call via a Twitter post on Monday. “I propose a live broadcast debate on national television and Radio + private media between presidential candidates.

“This will be an opportunity to demonstrate that (for) on the ground ideas and their implementation, our coalition brings concrete proposals,” his tweet read.

Fayulu’s challenge comes at a time when candidates are busily campaigning across the country as they canvass votes to replace outgoing Joseph Kabila. The DRC is hoping for its first ever peaceful transition of power.

The Lamuka coalition comprises three aspirants and two banned hopefuls. The two are former vice president Jean Pierre Bemba and ex-governor of Katanga province, Moise Katumbi.

Other major candidates in the official pool of 21 include a former minister of interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, running on the ticket of the ruling coalition and Felix Tshisekedi, a son of a deceased veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi.

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