Thousands rally in DR Congo against use of voting machines

Opposition supporters demonstrate against the electoral process scheduled for the December elections in fear of fraud on Lumumba Boulevard, east of Kinshasa, on October 26, 2018. Photo | Junior D. KANNAH | AFP


Thousands of opposition supporters rallied Friday across DR Congo seeking the withdrawal of electronic voting machines in a long-delayed election due at the end of December, saying they would be misused to rig the results.

The regime of President Joseph Kabila in a rare gesture authorised the protest but AFP correspondents said security forces were deployed in strength in Kinshasa, the key eastern cities of Goma and Bukavu and Bunia in the northeast.

Unlike deadly protest marches in the past which have seen security forces firing tear gas and live bullets, Friday's rallies ended without incident.

Thousands marched in central Kinshasa shouting "We will fight to the death", and "Voting machine equals cheating machine," an AFP journalist said.

"It's a show of force by the Congolese people who don't want these voting machines ... and a parody of an election," said Vital Kamerhe, a presidential candidate in the December 23 vote.

Former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and regional baron Moise Katumbi have been barred from standing for the top job in a move that raised howls of protest from their powerful blocs of supporters.

Bemba had asked people to rally in droves to protest against "the greatest electoral fraud ever with electronic machines that have not been tested anywhere in the world."

Katumbi meanwhile in a video exhorted his supporters to "stage a massive march to say no to the electronic machines and no to corruption."

However the main opposition The Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, whose leader Felix Tshisekedi is running for president, did not participate in Friday's march.

The opposition claims the South Korean machines will be used for massive fraud in the presidential, parliamentary and provincial polls.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has never seen a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila, 47, has been in power since 2001. His second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he stayed on thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution.

Kabila last month promised at the United Nations the country would hold a credible ballot. But the months before he said he would step aside were marred by brutally repressed protests.

Critics worry Kabila is trying to make sure his favoured successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister, faces no serious challenger.

The governor of Kinshasa authorised Friday's rally after a meeting with organisers who agreed that it would not end in the posh Gombe district, where many government buildings, diplomatic missions and big businesses are located.

Kinshasa police chief Sylvano Kasongo had called for an orderly march with "no bloodbath and the objective of zero deaths".

After talks in Johannesburg, delegates from the fragmented opposition announced that they would appoint a joint candidate by November 15.

The electoral commission in January put the number of potential voters at more than 46 million, according to the International Crisis Group.

However, Friday's marchers also called on the commission to strike off more than 10 million names from the electoral roll because they were registered without digital fingerprints.


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.