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Updated On: Monday, November 20 2017

Kabila sits tight as Congo crumbles

The credibility of the registration process has also been called into question by opposition politicians and election observers, who claim irregularities in CENI’s initial data.

“In some provinces, enrolment numbers are extremely high, in others extremely low,” said a source who receives regular data updates from CENI.

“It is alarming.”

At the centre of the controversy is Sankuru, one of five provinces that make up the conflict-torn Kasai region and a stronghold of government information minister and spokesperson Lambert Mende and the minister of foreign affairs, Leonard She Okitundu.

According to internal CENI data seen by IRIN, the number of registered voters in Sankuru was over two million, 226 percent above its estimate of 886,386. That represents 92 percent of the total population based on population figures from a 2015 report from the Congolese Institute for National Statistics, also seen by IRIN.

“It is simply unbelievable,” said Martin Fayulu, an opposition politician and leader of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party.                                                                                                 

Kalamba offered numerous explanations to IRIN, emphasising population movements triggered by the conflict in Kasai. “Sankuru Province was a part of Kasai that rebels did not manage to reach,” he said. “Many people who ran away from the war went there.”

But publically available figures from the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, show that just 21,000 IDPs were registered in Sankuru as of June 2017, far fewer than in neighbouring provinces.                                                                         

Given Sankuru was one of the first provinces in the Kasai region to open registration centres, it is possible voters from other parts of Kasai temporarily travelled there, unsure when or if CENI’s operation would reach their hometowns.

A similar phenomenon has been observed in previous elections in Congo. But a UN source with colleagues in nearby Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi said they had received no indication of such a large-scale influx.

Until CENI’s data is cleaned and audited by the OIF it is impossible to draw conclusions.

But with a paltry budget, the UN mission in the Congo has struggled to effectively monitor the registration process, with one staff member often asked to cover multiple provinces.

“We rely fully on CENI’s monitoring,” said one source. “We don’t have our own source of information.”

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