Highlights for the week include a high profile consultation meeting between the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and the wing of the opposition that supports Etienne Tshisekedi for the presidency; a briefing by CENI president on the status of pre-election preparations; and the resurgence of security issues in the electoral process.
Consultation meeting between CENI and opposition parties
On Monday, September 19, 2011, CENI called a consultation meeting with the wing of the opposition supporting the candidacy of M. Etienne Tshisekedi. One of the outcomes of the meeting was that CENI finally agreed to allow opposition’s representatives to access CENI’s database to check its liability by reviewing the process through which the voter register was obtained. Among the five persons appointed by the opposition to conduct the audit of the voter register are three politicians, namely Martin Fayulu (member of the Kinshasa Provincial Assembly and leader of a party that supports Tshisekedi), Valentin Mubake (UDPS member and Tshisekedi’s political advisor), and Jean-Lucien Busa (MLC member of the National Assembly).
Later in the week, however, Daniel Mulunda, CENI president, issued statements that suggested a reversal of this agreement by conditioning access to the CENI’s central server by the opposition to the presence of representatives of the ruling coalition Majorité Présidentielle (MP). However, representatives of the MP, among them Evariste Boshab, president of the National Assembly and General Secretary of PPRD, President Kabila's party, have repeatedly said that there is no need for an audit of the voter register because their witnesses observed the operation of voter registration in the field. Under these conditions, to condition an audit of the voter register by the opposition to the presence of MP representatives would amount to giving the ruling coalition a right to veto access to the voter register by the opposition. Some opposition leaders, including Delly Sesanga, a former leader of Bemba’s MLC and a member of the National Assembly, consider that the requirement of the opposition for an audit of the voter register is a distraction, and it is more important that the opposition organize to deploy witnesses in all polling stations across the country.
Controversy over the anticipated start of the campaign
Another highlight of this meeting is the fact that CENI urged the Majorité Présidentielle to immediately withdraw banners, posters and signs promoting its candidates. Such signs and banners are visible in the main cities, including Kinshasa, in violation of electoral Law and calendar that set October 26, 2011 as the start of the electoral campaign. However, despite the ultimatum of CENI these propaganda tools had still not been removed by end of the week. Opposition parties met on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 and threatened to start also an early campaign if the parties of the Majorité Présidentielle did not comply with CENI’s ultimatum. This controversy casts some doubts on the ability of CENI to regulate and discipline political parties and enforce the electoral code of conduct.
Status of the preparations for elections
Wednesday, September 21, 2011, during a briefing with African diplomats accredited in the DRC, CENI president announced that 119,000 doublons (people registered more than once) have been found at the end of the voter registration. He added that of these, 40% were as a consequence of technical errors and 60% were intentional multiple registration in violation of the electoral law. However, CENI has not yet said anything publicly about the toilettage (cleaning) of the voter register undertaken by Kinshasa company Hologram, which, according to various reliable sources, has resulted in the identification of more than 2 million of fake or illegal voters (from either multiple registration or registration of minors of age, members of the military or police forces, etc.) out of the 32,000,000 voters initially announced by the CENI.
In addition, CENI released the provisional list of candidates for National Assembly. In all, CENI has received 19,000 applications for 500 seats in the National Assembly. There is still no breakdown of the number of women and men, or of candidates presented on party lists and independent candidates. Nevertheless, this figure is more than double the number of candidates for the 2006 parliamentary elections, which was 9,709 (including 8,940 presented on party lists and 769 independent candidates). This dramatic increase of the number of candidates could be the result of the fact that two important parties that did not take part in the 2006 elections are fielding candidates in almost all electoral districts : Etienne Tshisekedi’s UDPS, which had boycotted the 2006 elections, and Vital Kamerhe’s UNC, which was formed in December 2010 following the former president of the National Assembly’s defection from PPRD.
MONUSCO vowed to continue to provide logistical support to CENI through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1991. MONUSCO announced that in the coming days they will help with the delivery of electoral kits from big cities to sub-centers (e.g. from Kisangani to different districts of Eastern Province, and in some cities in the Equateur province).
Judges continued their strike throughout the country to protest the mischaracterization of their working conditions in a speech by president Kabila on 14 September 2011 assessing his 5-year term. The strike was called by the main union of magistrates SYNAMAC (Syndicat National Autonome des Magistrats Congolais) and its affiliates, to demand effective payment of salaries Kabila erroneously said were effective.
Elections and Security
The Joint United Nations Office for Human Rights (BCNUDH) had released this week its report for the month of August. The report highlights the fact that securing the electoral process is a concern. The recent human rights violations during public events at the beginning of September suggest major risks associated with the ability of police and military to divest itself of political allegiance, and to act vis-à-vis protesters with rationality and in a way that respect Human Rights. Incidences of human rights violations during the registration of candidates suggest the risk of overflow during the election campaign. In addition, the provinces of North and South Kivu and Orientale Province continue to register the greatest number of violations of rights and freedom in this pre-election context. The report of BCNUDH reported for example that in Lubero territory, North Kivu, FDLR’s fighters have repeatedly intimidated the civilian population to discourage them from registering to vote. Similarly, on 17 and 18 August 2011, in the city of Pitakongo, Lubero territory, fighters of the FDLR-FOCA arrested 12 people who were going to the market and destroyed their voter cards. Threats have been made against any person wishing to participate in the electoral process. This reinforces the need for increased security in areas where armed groups still operate. In Mbuji-Mayi local authorities put a ban on political meetings and other popular gatherings since 5 September 2011.