DRC weekly electoral briefing (23-30 Oct)
Campaign starts amid fears of violence
Launch of the electoral campaign on October 28
The electoral campaign officially started on October 28 with 346 political parties fielding candidates, along with an additional 537 independent candidates. Seven political parties have put forward a presidential candidate, while another four are running as independents, including the incumbent President Joseph Kabila – even though his candidacy was formally endorsed at a congress of his PPRD party last August.
Statement of 41 NGOs on election security
On the day the campaign was launched, 41 national and international civil society organisations, including OSISA, released a statement in which they requested urgent action to prevent electoral violence, provide adequate protection to civilians and ensure credible, free and transparent elections. Their concerns were related to the escalation of violence during the pre-election period.
In their statement, the signatories mentioned that these elections are crucial for consolidating the democratic achievements of the country, completing a full electoral cycle and strengthening democratic institutions. The signatories said “there is a need for the future government of the DRC to get a strong and legitimate mandate from the Congolese people to effectively address the systemic problems of the country”.
So they have recommended to the Congolese Government to ensure the security and dignity of civilians by deploying well-trained and well-equipped national police personnel, and to ensure that the police do not make excessive use of force. The signatories also called on the Congolese authorities to respect civil liberties – including freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to protest peacefully – and to abstain from any attempt at intimidation. They also called on the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) to maximize its communication efforts and make public more information about its strategy.
Pre-electoral violence in Mbuji-Mayi
Electoral violence was reported in Mbuji Mayi, the capital of Kasai Oriental province, during the week. According to a report by the Collective of Organizations for Human Rights and Elections Kasai Oriental (CODHELEC) a group of athletes attacked opposition UDPS supporters on Friday. On the same day, the police fired live ammunition to disperse a campaign procession by the leader of the Parti du Travail, which is supporting the main opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi. It is believed that the police intervened because the party’s supporters were singing songs hostile to President Kabila. A teenage girl was hit by a stray bullet and died of his injuries.
The violence in Mbuji Mayi highlights again the abuse of force by the police, and the provocative behaviour of certain political and administrative authorities close to the ruling party. It also shines a light on the tactic of using of groups of young athletes by political parties, a practice which has also been reported in Kinshasa and other provinces like Equateur. In a statement last weekend in Washington, DC, a spokesman for the State Department deplored the events in Mbuji Mayi and called on Congolese political leaders to avoid inciting violence and renounce the use of violence and intimidation during this sensitive period.
Meeting between the CENI, presidential candidates and NDI’s Bill Richardson
On October 30, former US Congressman and Governor Bill Richardson, who is now the coordinator of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), participated in a meeting between CENI and presidential candidates or their representatives. At the end of the meeting, Richardson declared himself satisfied with the positive work done by the CENI and declared himself opposed to the idea of postponing the elections.
However, the meeting did allow candidates and their representatives to express their concerns regarding the poor start to the campaign. They mentioned that it is difficult difficulties to travel across the country because all available flights have been all chartered by the ruling PPRD and its allies. In addition, they asked that CENI respect the Electoral Law and request that candidates who hold public office as Governors and Ministers resign immediately as provided in the law. Action contre l’Impunite pour les Droits de l’homme (ACIDH, a Lubumbashi based human rights organization) had already challenged the CENI on this point without any satisfactory response. Yet the obligation to resign is justified by the risk that public representatives, governors and ministers will use public resources to campaign.
Receipt of other electoral materials by CENI
On Saturday, the CENI announced the receipt of 12,000 polls in Lubumbashi, weighing 55 tones. The vice-president of the CENI said that the polls will be deployed throughout Katanga and the electoral districts of the province of Kasai Oriental. A second plane was expected to arrive in Kinshasa with an equivalent tonnage. CENI has also launched the process of displaying lists of electors for the polling stations.