Well, it is Election Day Plus One in the Congo.
Acting on the advice of the UNDSS and several others, I have left the Congo and will be finishing up things in Bujumbura, Burundi, before leaving Africa. I really wish I could have stayed in the DR Congo as an election observer, but for a simple humanitarian, it was the best decision to sit things out. Maybe I will be back for the next presidential election.
Across the country, polling has been marred by violence and accusations of fraud, but fortunately I am hearing nothing out of Uvira so far. No news is good news. However, there are reports that large parts of Fizi Territory did not receive election materials as of yesterday, which makes sense, considering how large parts of Fizi are still zones of combat.
In Lubumbashi, there are reports of up to a dozen or so people killed when armed men opened fire on several polling stations.
In Kinshasa, the Election Day mood was “tense”, as the governor decided to cancel all demonstrations on the last day of campaigning. This infuriated many UDPS supporters; there were several violent clashes between the police and Tshisekedi supporters. The EU condemned the cancellation as a violation of free speech and free assembly.
The allegations of voting fraud have mostly been about the following: ballots where Joseph Kabila’s name has already been checked, ballot boxes being already half-full even before the polls opened, poll stations opening late or not opening at all, observers not being allowed to monitor polling stations and inspect ballot boxes, voters not finding their names on the registration lists, soldiers blocking access to polling stations or forcing people to vote their way, and tampering with ballot boxes after they had been collected. In some cases, accusations of fraud have lead to polling stations being attacked by angry mobs in North Kivu and the Kasai Provinces. The irregularities are occurring in many places across the whole of the country, according to one observer.
According to the BBC (see below), voting has been extended in some areas, due to polling stations opening late and ballots not arriving. In one part of Kinshasa, the legislative ballots were a staggering 13 pages long; the amount of resources needed to put on this election at rather short notice has been overwhelming. In particular, there are concerns about how accessible rural polling stations have been in a country with so few roads.
Checking the latest headlines, both the CENI (Congolese electoral commission) and UN envoy Roger Meece are so far satisfied with the way elections are going. Whether this is the opinion of the man (or woman) on the street, however, is another matter. Nonetheless, I think everyone knew going into Election Day that things would be rough, and fortunately so far it has not been as bad as it could have been, considering historical precedence. However, we all know that Congo (or any country, for that matter) deserves better.
To keep up-to-date on what exactly is going on in these perilous days for the Congo, I would advise you to visit the following websites:
Probably the best news source on anything in the Congo. Check out the nifty, interactive election map, which gives population data, number of candidates, etc., on each province.
Jason Stearns is in Bukavu right now as an election observer, and he has lots of interesting updates from around the country.
The latest BBC news on what’s going on with elections. Make sure to check out the cool series of maps at the bottom.
Ms. Walker has just written blog entry on a series of tragic incidents that happened in Uvira just before we left, and what some of the women of Uvira have done to respond.
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Nov 29th, 2011