First DR Congo voting “machines” arrive

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DR Congo deputy prime minister said tablet-like voting machines for December’s election were made to order and will finish arriving this month, despite suspicions by diplomats and the opposition they may enable fraud.

President Joseph Kabila is due to step down after 17 years in power after a long-delayed vote scheduled for December 23 to choose a successor.

The election, meant to take place before Kabila’s mandate expired in 2016, had been delayed for so long many doubted it would happen.

If it goes ahead, it will be Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

This year, crucial milestones on the calendar — such as candidate registration — were passed on time.
“A hundred and eighty containers from South Korea with machines in them are on the sea,” Vice Prime Minister and Security Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi said in a statement, adding 15 already arrived and the rest would arrive by the end of October.

The introduction of electronic voting and the authorities’ exclusion of a number of candidates from the ballot — including exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi and former vice president and acquitted war crimes suspect Jean-Pierre Bemba — prompted opposition leaders to cry foul.

The electoral commission said the machines will cut costs and speed up counting of votes in the vast central African country where past elections were marred by voting irregularities or violence.

Critics say they are much more vulnerable to vote-rigging than paper and ink and could be compromised by the unreliability of Congo’s power supply, especially in remoter parts of its vast, forested territory. Sakanyi said a shipment of solar panels to run them was also on the way.

Although Kabila is not running, he has thrown his weight behind former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Sakanyi said vehicles needed to distribute election materials, such as trucks and helicopters — many parts of Congo have no roads — would arrive on Saturday.

He noted there were serious challenges to sticking to Congo’s electoral calendar, including insecurity in parts of the country that had led to electoral officials being kidnapped in two incidents and the Ebola epidemic in the east.