Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Monday, November 28, 2011

Elections update: Violence in Lubumbashi and Kananga; irregularities elsewhere

Voting has begun peacefully in much of the country, with high turnout in many areas (including Bukavu, where I am).

However, several serious incidents have been reported. While my sources are reliable (mostly foreign observation missions, journalists and the United Nations), things are developing rapidly and I have not been able to cross-check all of the information below.
  • In Lubumbashi, serious violence has erupted in various areas of town. Opposition supporters denounced the delays in opening polling stations in the Bel-Air neighborhoods where many UDPS supporters live. Road blocks were set up and protests broke out. Some time afterwards, UN reports came in regarding the blowing up of two trucks full of ballot papers that had allegedly already been filled out before voting began. Around the same time, two trucks full of sensitive election materials were set on fire in the Kenya neighborhood of town. All the while, numerous abuses have been reported by election observers in polling stations (no further information available). Armed civilians wearing red bandanas have opened fire on civilians at polling stations at Sapin Cemetary in the Ruashi neighborhood, while armed gunmen stormed another polling station in Bel Air and set it on fire. The MONUSCO staff has been forced to retreat into their compound; there are even reports of mortar fire in town;
  • Election materials arrived late in much of Kinshasa. According to one international source, in Kinshasa IV (where around a quarter of the population lives) the presidential ballot papers had not arrived by noon. Heavy rain has disrupted or slowed down some of the electoral operations in town. Still the situation seems to be relatively calm, with no reports of violence in the capital;
  • In several places around the country there have been reports of ballot papers being found already filled out before the elections began. This was the case in Goma (Himbi or Ndosho neighborhood), where the head of a voting center was attacked (one report has him being arrested) by voters after they found him with a stack of filled out ballots; a similar case occured in Kananga, where a woman is in critical condition - some reports suggest that she was trying to expose the fraudsters when she was attacked, others say she herself was the culprit. In Lubumbashi, Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi there have been similar reports;
  • In Kananga (Kasai Occidental), there have also been numerous violent incidents. Very few voting stations reportedly opened on time, due to the lack of polling materials. Some stations told voters to come back at noon, while in others observers alleged that ballot boxes already had ballots in them before voting began. Several voting stations - including those in religious institutions - have been attacked by "mobs," in some cases these seem to be angry voters throwing stones. Several injuries have been reported and some polling stations are now closed;
  • Irregularities are been reported in too many areas to list here - they include ballot boxes found filled before voting began in Penga Yengo (Kasai-Occidental); voting officials refusing to show witnesses that boxes are empty before voting began (as required by law) in Mbandaka (Equateur); opposition witnesses refused entry in Kananga and Bakwa Kenge (Kasai-Occidental); in Ndesha and Bena Leka (Kasai-Occidental) polling stations burned down;
  • In Luiza (Kasai-Occidental), opposition supporters loyal to Delly Sesanga's Envol party have attacked (not clear how serious) the guest house where election officials were staying, accusing them of fraud;
  • In Masisi (North Kivu), there have been accusations of CNDP soldiers stealing voters card and then voting for them, of soldiers telling people to vote for CNDP candidates, and of blocking the entrance fo non-CNDP witnesses into voting centers;
  • Fears of violence have prompted the European Union to withdraw observers from Mbuji Mayi and MONUSCO from pulling people from Mwene Ditu (Kasai Oriental)
Again, I emphasize that this is a huge country and in other areas voting has been happenin.g peacefully. Nonetheless, this violence and persistent accusations of fraud are very troubling.


D Djeli said...

Well done Jason...

having just noted the problem in Bakole I got a text about the Lubumbashi problems....

But you are right its a big country

It seems so far fairly calm around the country but EVERYWHERE seems to be saying that names are not on lists and people are arriving to vote to find that the list says they voted already and others say boxes stuffed. But the latter could be the A3 sized voting slips too. That's going to be a bigger problem as the day wears on...

Fingers crossed here and best wishes

Rich said...

Jason -

I have received corroborating reports especially for Katanga and the Bel Air area... It is still early in the process and I hope to get a clearer picture as the day progress.

Here is a clip at a polling station in Kinshasa were things seems peaceful despite some late opening of certain centers. Mulunda assured people yesterday saying 11 Hrs is the time required for the center to be opened so even if it starts late, it must remain opened for the full 11 Hrs...

According to some sources, there are people with a resolute intent to trouble these elections at any cost but it is not clear if the police and the security services will be able to limit the damage...!


D Djeli said...

South African press is also running with the Kananga story.... And that's one of Tshisekedi's locales no?

Christian Doyen said...


Are you serious?
"According to some sources, there are people with a resolute intent to trouble these elections at any cost but it is not clear if the police and the security services will be able to limit the damage..."
When in the history of the RAIS being in power have the police and security services ever acted in the interest of the people of the DRC? I think you meant to say "inflict the damage". Time and time again, they have acted as his personal militia eliminating anyone, from Chebaya to Prigogine, who opposes Kabila and his cronies political or commercial interest.
Will Kabila ever be held accountable for his actions in the ICC?

Anand said...

Rich, Jason, and D Djeli - Thank you so much for the reports. Please continue to post as information becomes available and time allows. I am glad for the relative calm, but dismayed by the violence, delays, and reports of fraud. Somebody posted that things are going calmly in Rutshuru, which I am glad to hear. I fear we are seeing the precursor to what may unfold when results are announced. I am most troubled by the report of civilians being fired on in Ruashi. Rich, thanks for the video.

Anonymous said...

The Lubumbashi report is a little confusing. Most of the trouble happened in the Bel-Air neighborhood (Kampemba). Two nights ago, an armed group attacked Camp Vangu, which is at about 1km south from Bel-Air. The group set fire to the arms depot, which burnt down entirely. Yesterday night, an armed group attacked Camp GMI Est, which is close to (or even in?) Bel-Air as well. They took arms and burnt down vehicles, which are in all likelihood the two CENI pick-up trucks you mention. Colleagues saw the trucks with left-overs of ballots, some of which hadn't burnt completely. Then, around 11.30, an armed group of at least 7 attacked at least one, but may be several neighboring polling stations at Institut Njanja, shooting rounds in the air and trying to disperse people. I think the Sapin Cemetery and the Bel-Air attack you mention are the same thing -- the attack on Njanja. For about an hour, people were running in different directions, trying to get home.

Several other similar incidents have been reported in la Kenya (although the 2 trucks is the first thing I heard), la Katuba, and at Ecole Calvin on Avenue de la Revolution (where voting has started again since). But the details of those incidents are much less clear. FARDC seem to have launched an operation in Bel-Air and surroundings to get the area back under control, but it is not clear whether those stations will reopen anytime soon.

For sure, many of the stations didn't have the material on time. At one of the stations where a friend is voting, the bureau opened at 16h01...

Rich said...

Christian Doyen -

Relax... I meant to say if security services will be able to contain any trouble because if things go out of hands then we can all forget about the elections (what a waste of efforts and good will?)and it will be incredibly impossible to predict what may enfold if ever this election is to abort at this stage!

I did not mean to defend or praise Kabila's security agents or indeed their behaviour. there foreign observers and nationals in the country and their lives are on the line and you don't want these things to turn nastier than they already are OKAY?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all these reports, folks.

Of friends in the Congo, mostly in Bukavu, Gemena, and Lisala, all have texted me to let me know everything went smoothly, that they were really impressed with the professionalism of the poll workers, and one- via facebook- got a pic with a EU observer! But, ofcourse, the big concern with them is what happens after the announcement and, as one friend put it, “we are dreading it.”.

It makes me wonder what the “silent majority” in the Congo are thinking right now. I can say my friends were very conflicted precisely because they didn’t want to vote in a way that would plunge the nation into violence. I think, for most, that is a BIG concern so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Its my thinking that a desire for stability, as is the case for all people, will mean a Kabila win. But, the desire for change is very real as well so perhaps not. Who knows?

Also, the one good thing I see coming out of this down the road is that the Congolese are now more clear about the task of organizing elections, its cost, etc. So, hopefully, there will some lessons learned along the way to make the vote next year in local elections run more smoothly and ofcourse the next round of Prez/legislative elections.


Rich said...

Here is a link to the radiookapi live feed on the election. It is in french but folks can get those sentences translated on google translate. They are brief reports from radio okapi special envoys spread all around the country and providing insightful almost live feeds that will help you picture and measure the overall situation at all levels.

If it does not display just click in the middle of the purple rectangle below the picture of voters checking their names at a voting center.


D Djeli said...

I've been following it all day and retweeting it:
Updates for thos without:

Dizolele article

some polling stations in Kinshasa never opened all day due to no ballots for presedential elections only parliamentary; all over drc some people couldn't find their names on voting lists; polling closing in East but those that opened late are supposed stay open 11 hours, lots of confusion reported over where to vote; heavy rain in many places too...

D Djeli said...

Just heard Tshishekedi and supporters blocked by police on their way to vote ... now that is a problem :(

Christophe Ethuin said...

Dear Jason, thanks for this update. I am glad it is roughly consistent with my own at:
Many greetings and: Courage!

D Djeli said...

Ok Hogg reports that after teargas incidents Tshisekedi has voted and his posse are happily escorting him home!

Anand said...

Rich - Thanks for the Radio Okapi source.

D Djeli - I think the Dizolele article is easily the best summary of the elections that I have read thus far. Something I can share with friends who don't follow the DRC. And thanks for the Tshisekedi update.

Christophe - Thanks for the province by province breakdown. That helps to create a visual sense of what's happening where.

Mel - Sounds like your friends are pretty spread out across the country, so it's nice to hear that they have all experienced a smooth process.

Jason - You haven't posted in several hours. Get with it! What, are you busy observing a major election or something?! :)

Anonymous said...

This is like a day old but its Al Jazeera's interview with Vital where he lays out the coming fraud. Its in English.

So, in a few hours we will all know what happened. We could also get another day of voting given the concerns today.

And theh, ofcourse, the announcement.

I think alot of this will depend on what African observers come up with and, from my understanding, that is being led by recently defeated former Zambia Prez, Rupiah Banda.

If they declare fraud, I don't see a situation where ET backs down- or others for that matter. And if violence breaks out, then things could get real ugly real quick.

I just hope that Kabila, if he wins, has the gracious to bring ET and others- depending on the Assembly outcome ofcourse- into government if things get out of hand as a result of a fraudelent election.

I'm pretty sure the AU and UN, if this occurs, will actually demand it but Kabila, for all his many flaws, is not the kind of guy to go to the brink.

I really hope my scenario here is what we see because if we don't see something like this this entire region could destabilize and slide into chaos.

Let's all pray Kabila has a moment of clarity if this spirals out of control and the AU steps up like they did in the Ivory Coast (though not Libya in my view).


D Djeli said...

Kinshasa Ndjili CENI says voters who found they were not on the register are allowed vote after Okapi published their concerns.

Will update some more in a few minutes I stopped for supper and my messages and texts went loco so it'll take a bit to distil into sense. Not all bad news I saw some great Congolese footage of voters being silly and dancing in the rain after being kept waiting for hours :)

Anonymous said...

Jason (or really anyone)- could you provide some insight on how ballots will be marked and then tabulated? In other-wards, after someone votes, is their name and voter ID card number placed on a ballot and then in a database? I am really glad to hear folks are not being turned away (in some places) but the key here is the integrity of their vote. to be clear, I’ve read this guide for actual voters from radio okapi:

what I am concerned about is ensuring one man one vote and what the tabulation process will be, the process for those who cast ballots when they aren’t on the list/wrong poll, and how this will all be databased so as to ensure against fraud.

thanks and yes be safe and enjoy Bukavu! going there in January with my wife for her family reunion (the whole family own shops and are teachers...solid middle class). love that place.


D Djeli said...

Article starts with the drama its not all bad news and I think the press have focussed on the violence and not in proportion to size of the country.

Drama gets more coverage of course... All the mainstream press have focussed on it but I always remind myself that Goma is further from Kinshasa than Paris is from Madrid...

Interesting comment on CBS reporting that innocent mistakes being made by some voters who don't really know how it is supposed to work - voting for wrong candidates...

SADC say voting in Kinshasa was free but AL jazeera correspondent just tweeted yeah ok but how fair

Christian Doyen said...

I appreciate what you meant, I just have a very hard time accepting that Kabila is actually considered a viable option and a partner with whom the international community can work with in light of where he is taken the country during his reign. Is the exercise in democracy more important than the actual well being of the country and its people? This is a question I struggle with. Will the country be better off if Kabila is elected peacefully and has the opportunity to sell off what remains of the country for another term? As far as putting lives on the line, our family in Goma has already paid with our blood for demanding justice from the Kabila regime so I fully appreciate the risks people are exposing themselves to in the name of fair and just elections,

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

Really happy to read you, especially knowing you are in Bukavu. Thanks for all information you're bringing on DRC. MichKa

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