-What do Congolese think of the Voting Machines ahead of upcoming elections? Here is what a nationwide road show organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission Found.
Corneille Nangaa is President of the Independent National Electoral Commission of the D.R.Congo
Criticised by some political stakeholders from the radical opposition, the voting machine which will help with the simultaneous conduction of national and provincial legislation polls, as well as the presidential election in December, seems to win the minds and souls of ordinary Congolese citizens. The nation-wide road-show, organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), convincingly showcased the device designed in DRC and made in South Korea. From Boma in Kongo Central Province, to Bulungu, Idiofa, Kamonia, Lubumbashi, Kalemie, Mbujimayi, Lodja, Gbadolite all the way to Isiro….news received from these locations attest the performance of the device and the satisfaction of voters who showered praises on the DRC electoral body for this innovation.
In Kamonia, a territory located in the Province of Kasai, the first sensitisation session on the device took place on 28 April 2018 before members of the Territory Security Committee, namely Augustin Kabawu, Daudet Tshibuabua and Jacob Mbombo, respectively CENI Field Office, Logistics Officer and IT Officer Members of the Territory Security Committee, led by M. Jean Paul Kuzo, the Territory Administrator of Kamonia, tested for themselves the device after exchange session with CENI delegates.
In Kalemie, in the province of Tangayika, more than 400 members of Salem Pentecostal Church were sensitised on the Electoral Law, the electoral calendar and the voting machine. This was during their church service on 29 April 2018 which was also attended by the CENI Provincial Executive Secretary, Stéphane Momat. Momat carried on with his sensitisation tour to members of the Dav neighborhood Great Mosque where an estimated 600 people were sensitised on the voting machine, on the 7 innovations of the electoral law, and the key milestones of the electoral calendar. On this occasion, the Tanganyika Province Muslim Church representative, Imam Juma Ussen and his committee, led by example by voting, and getting to appreciate the voting machine.
In Boma, in the Province of Kongo Central, a consultation forum bringing together political stakeholders from the opposition and the regime as well as members of the civil society was held on Saturday 28 April 2018. Moderated by Ms Bernadine Kitondo, CENI Provincial Executive Secretary, the forum was attended by 115 people who got an opportunity to test the voting machine by 4 groups of 20 members each, comprising the four components (opposition, regime, civil society, and women and youth).
Meanwhile, in the territory of Sekebanza, Astrid Nkembi, Head of CENI Field Office, introduced the new voting machine to the Territory Administrator, to members of the Local Operations Committee, to the Territory Administrative Officers, to the President of the Civil Society, to 5 Heads of Sub-Territories invited specifically for the purpose, as well as to local journalists. It is worth mentioning that 16 out of the 24 participants were able to test the device for themselves. All participants recommended that CENI Sekebanza Field Office should ensure that Sub-territories, wards and villages are widely sensitised to the use of the voting machine so that voters get to acquaint themselves with this tool, thus putting to bed the politically-motivated myth stirred around this device which is merely a voting tool.
In Gbadolite in the Province of Sud Ubangi, CENI Executive Secretary held a sensitisation session on 29 April 2018 at the Provincial Parliament Building. A total of 53 people including 12 out of the 18 provincial members of parliament attended the exchange which focused to three aspects, namely: the innovation introduced by the electoral law, the critical path of the electoral calendar, and the voting machine. Participants were happy with the exchange but expressed concerns on the issue of the draft law on the sharing of legislative being tabled at parliament.
Returning from a training in Bandundu-Ville, Heads of CENI Field Offices in Kwilu immediately set out to put in practice the instructions given them by the top management. Following in the steps of the Kikwit and Idiofa Field Offices, the Gungu and Bulungu Field Offices also launched the sensitisation campaign on the electoral law the electoral calendar and the voting machine.
In Gungu, the campaign started on 27 April 2018 in the Gungu Territory Conference Room, with the attendance of members of the Local Operations Committee (CLO). In his remarks, the Acting Head of Field Office, M. Erick Kayimona, explained to the 30 participants the innovations introduced by the electoral law, the key milestones of the calendar and the voting machine. He indicated that the voting machine was chosen to enable the concurrent polls to be held on 23 December 2018. Speaking to participants, the Territory Administrator, M. Trésor Kitambala, was proud of the choice to use the voting machine and commended the presence of the device in his territory in order to sensitise the population of Gungu On 28 April 2018, without resting, the Acting Head of Field Office held a meeting in the conference room of Gungu ITPR, bringing together political parties, faith-based organisations, civil society organisations and media. The three campaing themes, namely the innovations introduced by the electoral law (in particular the legal threshold of representativeness), the key milestones of the electoral calendar, and the voting machine, were the focus of his speech. A total of 93 people attended the activity and wished that CENI Gungu should conduct even more sensitisation activities.
In Bulungu, CENI Head of Field Office, Israël Kasay Malala, launched the campaign on 28 April 2018 in the presence of the Territory Adminstrator and members of the CLO. His message centred on the 7 innovations introduced by the electoral law, the main lines of the electoral calendar and the voting machine. On the machine, the Head of CENI Field Office touched on the context and justified the choice made by CENI of the voting machine with a view to the concurrent holding of polls on 23 December 2018. Mwankimi Kaba, the Bulungu Territory Administrator, expressed his satisfaction to see that, contrary to rumours about the voting machine, this device is rather helping the government by cutting the logistical (budgetary) cost while enabling the voter to cast their ballots, in less than a minutes, for the presidential election, the national legislative elections and the provincial legislative elections. The session was closed with the testing of the voting machine, much to the satisfaction of all.
In Idiofa, following the launch of the campaign, Head of CENI Field Office, Mr Stany Makela , sensitised a group of Primay Education inspectors in Dibaya Lubwe in a training in Idiofa ad journalists. Participants appreciated the presence of the voting machine in Idiofa in order to sensitised voters.
In the province of Haut Katanga, women from the PPRD party were sensitised on the voting machine on 28 April 2018. The event took place in the Bâtiment du 30 Juin and was themed on “Patriot women, mobilise for elections”. PPRD women invited the CENI Provincial Executive Secretary to update them on the current electoral developments, focused on the three themes: the milestones of the electoral calendar, the 7 innovations in the electoral law, and the voting machine. More than 350 people attended the sensitisation session during which about 40 people tested the voting machine, much to the satisfaction of all.
In Kananga in the province of Kasai Central, the managers of the Justice and Peace Commission in Kananga had the opportunity to test the voting machine. Meeting on 28 April 2018 in the conference room of the Pastoral Diocesan Centre in the municipality of Katoka. These managers from 18 catholic parishes in the city carefully followed the outline of the electoral law, the electoral calendar and the voting machine given by the Head of Kasai Central CENI Field Office. Almost all the participants (both men and women) rushed to hold the voting machine. The Vice President of the Commission, Richard Lukamba, was the first to vote, followed by 46 persons including 28 women and 18 men. All (118 people) promised to sensitise on the voting machine in their respective parishes.
In the same Province of Kasai Central, another presentation of the voting machine took place on 27 April 2018, involving the Provincial Youth Council. This was in the presence of the Provincial Youth Minister, Pauline Kamuandu, the Head of the Youth Division, Lumana Bilolo, and the Provincial Youth President, Peter Bakandowa. CENI Kasai Central Provincial Executive Secretary outlined the key milestones of the electoral calendar, the innovations of the electoral law and the voting machine to 242 young from the Council. After showing the importance of these three tools, he introduced the major breaktrhoughs of the electoral process, a testament to the fact that CENI will organise elections on 23 December 2018.
The first person to test the voting machine was the Provincial Youth Minister, then followed the Head of Youth Provincial Division and the Provincial Youth President. Finally, 36 youth were able to test the machine before a questions and answers session. Many questions related to the machine were asked and the answers given were satisfactory to the participants who appreciated this working tools by their spontaneous testimonies.
DR C’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) believes it will be impossible to hold elections on schedule without the machines because of challenges in setting up polling stations and counting ballots in a country with serious infrastructural handicaps .
In the Province of Ituri, 104 taxi-bikers, also known as “Wewas” and 19 traditional chiefs were able to test the machine in Mambasa. On 30 April 2018, during the Territory meeting, CENI Mambasa Field Officer, M. Rachidi, sensitised 104 taxi-bikers also known as Wewas, who are members of the Association of Congolese Drivers (ACCO) on the benefits and use of the voting machine. After a quick introduction, the bikers voted using the machine. It was observed that 12 Wewas were able to vote in less than 10 minuets. Satisfied, they stated that they will no longer fall prey to the manipulations of politicians.
After the “Wewa”, 19 Traditional CHiefs, who attended the meeting with the Territory Administrator, also, voted on 1 May 2018, using the machine. The Chiefs were surprised how easy it was to vote with the machine as opposed to the rumours being circulated. They vowed to sensitised their villagers in order for them to adopt this tool which will help them to properly elect, come the polls.
In Aru in the same province, 84 sick people, nurses, and health helpers as well as pastors in the CECA-20 General Hospital were targeted to use the voting machine. After a quick introduction on the benefits of the machine, CENI Field Office Head in Aru and his team demonstrated how the vote will take place on 23 December 2018. Participants tested the machine and said they were convinced by its performance.
In Isiro, taking advantage of a refresher training for community radio presenters from the 7 provinces of eastern DRC by the Minister of Communication and Media, CENI Executive Secretary from Haut Uele overwhelmingly convinced the participants who were joined by provincial ministers of the sector from the provinces and conducted a demonstration of the voting machined widely hailed.