/ 2 December 2011

Opposition calls for DRC elections to be annulled

A leading opposition challenger to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila this week called for the elections to be annulled, accusing authorities of systematic fraud.

Vital Kamerhe, a former government minister, said ballots had been marked in favour of Kabila in advance of the poll and some voters had been prevented from entering polling stations during Monday’s chaotic elections.

“There can be no doubt as to the scale of the fraud, deliberately planned by those in power with the connivance of the national election commission,” Kamerhe wrote in a letter to Kabila, the election commission and international bodies.

“Police chased witnesses from polling stations before counting could start,” he said, citing reports by international observers and others that security forces took control of voting stations in Kinshasa.

“These elections must, quite simply, be annulled.”

Violence and fraud seemed to be the order of the day as Congolese voters took to the polls on Monday in only their second democratic election since 1960.

Three other presidential candidates urged the Congolese not to accept any results from the vote, saying widespread technical problems and fraud meant that they would not be credible.
But the demands were rejected by the national election commission, which insisted that the process had mostly gone smoothly.

“The majority of polling stations opened,” said Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, the head of the commission.

“Violence happened in very few places and counting is going on, so I don’t see why we should annul the elections.”

Of the complaining candidates, he said: “They voted themselves. The result will be announced.

“If they win, they win, if they lose, they lose.”

Mulunda insisted that 99.2% of polling stations were functional, with problems reported at only 485 of a countrywide total of 63 865. Fresh ballot papers were being flown in from South Africa after stock was burned in an attack on a delivery truck in Lubumbashi.

Mulunda admitted that there had been some mistakes in deploying materials but, in response to the allegations of fraud, he said: “We need people to bring in these famous ballot papers so we can test them ourselves.” Completed ballot papers would be taken to counting centres in vehicles escorted by United Nations peacekeepers, official witnesses and journalists, but not the national army, he said.

Ida Sawyer, of Human Rights Watch, said earlier this week that Kinshasa appeared to be quiet, but there were allegations of fraud, ballot boxes being stuffed and the sale of registration cards.

There were also reports that eastern DRC voters were intimidated and told to vote for Kabila, she said.

Meanwhile, police removed from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Tuesday a group of DRC combatants who claimed that they had been tipped off that ballot papers were being loaded on to a plane.