Opposition protesters in DR Congo

Media Source: Agence France-Presse

Congolese opposition groups rounded Wednesday on the country’s electoral commission and its insistence that a long-awaited presidential vote in the vast African nation must be conducted using electronic voting machines.

“Democratic Republic of Congo’s political opposition expresses its profound concern over the casual attitude of the national electoral commission (CENI) in managing the election process,” representatives of five parties said in a rare joint statement from Kinshasa.

DR Congo’s long-delayed elections are slated for December 23 but there are fears of mounting unrest and organizers have already encountered a slew of logistical problems — including “millions” of duplicate names on voting registers — organizing the vote in the vast, mineral-rich nation.

Opposition groups reiterated their rejection of the use of South Korean-made electronic voting machines in the election, which CENI insists are necessary for proper monitoring of ballots.

However, authorities in Seoul on Tuesday distanced themselves from the machine manufacturers, saying there was “no guarantee” that the system would be effective.

President Joseph Kabila was due to stand down from office when his second term ended in December 2016. But he has controversially stayed on under laws enabling him to retain power until a successor is elected.

In addition to a deepening political crisis, the DR Congo is struggling with armed conflict in its vast, lawless east, which is under the sway of multiple rebel groups.

The country’s United Nations envoy Wednesday called for urgent reconciliation among ethnic groups in the northeastern Ituri region, the scene of several mass killings since the start of the year.

“I remind everyone that they are all Congolese. We need to be able to identify individual criminals and assailants without associating them with their tribes,” said Leila Zerrougui during a visit to the area.

At least 120 people have been murdered in Ituri since February, according to an AFP tally, and humanitarian groups say around 300,000 more have been forced from their homes due to violence.