AFRICA/DR CONGO - Controversy for electronic voting machines; the Bishops request an independent certification

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 bishops   elections  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "There is a risk of uselessly plunging the country into violence if voters are forced to vote electronically with machines that are not properly certified", says the Coordinating Lay Committee (CLC) in a statement. This is a Catholic lay organization that has promoted three demonstrations, to demand the application of the New Year's Eve Agreements, aimed at ensuring the presidential and legislative elections, repeatedly postponed after the end of the second and last term of President Joseph Kabila in December 2016.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has set the date of the elections on December 23, 2018, and established the use of electronic voting machines that were however declared not suitable by the South Korean Electoral Commission (NEC).
The machines in question are in fact manufactured by a South Korean company. According to the South Korean Electoral Commission, the company managed to impose its product on the DRC by bribing some local officials. The electoral body of Seoul sent a note to the Congolese CENI stating that it "can not officially support or offer any guarantee to the project to adopt a voting system through a touch screen for the presidential election in the DRC scheduled for December 2018", expressing "serious concerns about the mandatory introduction of these instruments in the DRC despite the unstable political situation, precarious electrical infrastructures, impassable roads, high rate of illiteracy and the tropical climate that can lead to the malfunctioning of these machines".
The statement from Seoul has caused strong controversy in the DRC. "The electors’ lack of trust in the organizing institution (CENI) remains a worrying topic", says the Committee of Catholic Laity, which asks CENI to "immediately withdraw the electoral machine project".
The Congolese Episcopal Conference (CENCO) has requested a certification of the electoral machines on behalf of independent experts. "There are many conflicting voices about the manufacture and origin of these machines", said Fr. Donatien Nshole, Secretary General of CENCO on 13 April during a press conference. "We renew the request for the certification of the electoral machines by national and international experts in order to find a consensus capable of reassuring all parties both on a technical and legal level", concluded Fr. Nshole. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 17/4/2018)