In the DRC, obtaining your voter card is an obstacle course as the elections approach

Under the tropical rain or the blazing sun, they wait all day to obtain duplicates of their voter card, because the original obtained with difficulty at the beginning of the year has faded, like an ephemera

In the DRC, obtaining your voter card is an obstacle course as the elections approach

Under the tropical rain or the blazing sun, they wait all day to obtain duplicates of their voter card, because the original obtained with difficulty at the beginning of the year has faded, like an ephemera. receipt. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), presidential, legislative, provincial and municipal elections are scheduled for December 20.

The outgoing president, Félix Tshisekedi, who came to power in January 2019 after controversial elections, is a candidate to succeed him, facing around twenty other candidates, only a few of whom are really campaigning, depending on their means and their political establishment.

The immense Central African country of some 100 million inhabitants has a turbulent, often violent political history, and its first pluralist elections only date back to 2006. “Congo is in the process of consolidating its democracy,” declared recently the government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya.

Since the start of the electoral process, suspicion has hovered over its transparency. The composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and the Constitutional Court is controversial, with the opposition accusing the government of having placed its men in these crucial institutions. A challenge to the results is therefore to be feared.

A schedule that has so far been generally held

But beyond the political merits of the issue, these elections are a real technical and logistical challenge in a country of forests and rivers of 2.3 million km2, which has very few roads, where the railway dates from the Belgian settlers and where insecurity transforms certain territories into prohibited zones.

More than a year ago, the president of the CENI, Denis Kadima, announced the date of December 20, 2023 for the organization of elections within the constitutional deadlines and set out a calendar which, until now, has generally been kept . To the surprise of many Congolese, still convinced today that a “slippage” – a postponement – ​​cannot be ruled out. “Day D-14,” said messages broadcast by the CENI on Wednesday in response to skeptics.

The day before, a manager had toured several “branches” of the Commission in the capital, where extracts from the electoral list were displayed on large panels that voters can come and consult. But it is not so much to scrutinize these lists that voters are rushing, as to obtain duplicates of their voter cards.

From December to March, “enlistment”, that is to say the registration of voters, took place, accompanied by the issuance of a card. The Congolese waited in the registration centers, had their photo taken and obtained their voter card which, in addition to allowing them to vote, serves as their identity card, in a country where the last specimens of this type of document date from Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator overthrown in 1997 after thirty-two years of reign.

“I didn’t think there would be elections.”

But the problem is that the photos and writing have since been erased on a significant number of defective batches of cards and people have, for several weeks, had to take steps to obtain new ones, with all the associated hassle. Félix Tshisekedi himself deplored in mid-November that the issuance of these cards was paid for by certain unscrupulous agents.

“I've been here since 9:30 a.m.,” says Grégoire-Dieudonné Kaykolongo, a 75-year-old agronomist, showing AFP the now blank card that he has come to have replaced in a CENI branch installed in the Lingwala municipal office. , in the north of Kinshasa. “I can’t vote with a card like that,” he laments. It’s past 3 p.m. and dozens of other Kinshasa residents are waiting patiently to receive their new document.

Inside, agents are busy, printing and pasting. Observing the display of the lists and the work in progress, Joseph Mwendanga, legislative candidate, says he is “reassured”. “I was worried, I didn’t think there would be elections…”, he emphasizes.