As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) strides towards the pivotal elections on December 20, 2023, the Democratic Solidarity Africa (DSA) applauds the concerted efforts of stakeholders championing an inclusive, transparent, and peaceful electoral process. Noteworthy achievements, such as the Constitutional Court's certification of all 26 candidates and the accreditation of observers from the largest domestic platform involving the Catholic Church (CENCO) and the Church of Christ (ECC), mark positive milestones in this journey. However, the DSA maintains a vigilant watch on emerging challenges.
Journalists, human rights defenders, and independent observers face an alarming lack of accreditation merely a week before the election, posing a severe threat to the democratic process. Equally alarming is the security impact of the M23 rebellion and armed groups in the DRC, contributing to the displacement of about 6.9 million people and widespread fighting affecting hundreds of thousands, amplifying the humanitarian crisis.
A paramount concern surfaces with the issue of faulty voter cards, eliciting anxiety among voters and election observers alike. The sub-standard quality of these cards, printed with thermal ink, casts doubt on their legibility and overall reliability. The disenfranchisement of a significant number of displaced individuals, coupled with uncertainties surrounding the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), fuels skepticism about the transparency and credibility of the impending elections. Moreover, recent reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists reveal an alarming trend of flagrant press freedom violations, several of which were election-related.
Furthermore, scrutiny of the transparency and quality of the voter registration process raises substantial mistrust among stakeholders. Approximately 5 million voters fell short of the original target, with insecurity exacerbating challenges in the eastern part of the country.
The DSA urgently calls for the following actions to salvage the integrity of the electoral process:
- Immediate Accreditation: Urgently grant accreditation to journalists, human rights defenders, and independent observers for effective participation in the democratic process.
- Security Reinforcement: Take decisive measures to address security challenges posed by armed groups, especially in conflict-prone areas, to ensure a secure and stable environment for voters.
- Credibility Check: Address the issues of faulty voter cards, enhance voter registration quality, and instill confidence in the transparency of the electoral environment.
- Stakeholder Collaboration: Facilitate open and constructive engagement between the CENI, political parties, civil society, and other stakeholders to build trust and transparency in the electoral process.
- Respect for press freedom and freedom of expression: Ensure protection of press freedom, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights of the Congolese people before, during, and after the elections.
With a collective resolve, the DSA stands in solidarity with the people of the DRC, election observers, and local actors, urging a concerted effort to surmount challenges and secure an election that fairly represents the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people. This is a pivotal moment and time is of the essence.