Blog | Carter Center Observes Challenging DRC Elections, Committed to Country’s Long-Term Stability

On Nov. 28, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is holding its second democratic multi-party national elections since gaining independence in 1960, and the first to be administered solely by the country’s election commission. Elections in 2006 were overseen by the United Nations.

A Congolese woman votes on election day 2011.

Photo:  G. Dubourthoumieu/The Carter Center
A Congolese woman casts her vote in a polling station in Kinshasa on Nov. 28, 2011. The Democratic Republic of the Congo held national elections Monday.

The challenges are many. The Independent National Election Commission (CENI) must deploy all materials on time to 63,000 polling stations across the country, many in remote, inaccessible places. Security is also a big issue. The national police force must keep the peace and guarantee safety in a very contentious environment.

The stability of DRC is the stability of the subregion,” said Baya Kara, director of the Carter Center’s election observation mission. “This election is a test of the strength of democratic institutions and the impartiality of CENI; it is important for us to be witness.”

Carter Center DRC Election Observation Leader Rupiah Banda

Photo:  G. Dubourthoumieu/The Carter Center
A Congolese man talks with Carter Center delegation leader and former president of Zambia Rupiah Banda (L) in front of a polling station in Kinshasa on Nov. 28, 2011. The Democratic Republic of the Congo held national elections Monday under a cloud of violence after clashes on the final day of campaigning left at least two people dead.

Twenty Carter Center long-term observers have been deployed since August, and they are now joined by others to form a 70-person delegation to observe the polling and counting processes. The group is co-led by former Zambia President Rupiah Banda and Carter Center Vice President for Peace Programs John Stremlau.

To cover the most ground in a country the size of Western Europe, the Center is also supporting the deployment of more than 6,000 domestic observers. This partnership will allow observers to deploy to the furthest corners of the DRC and reach even the most inaccessible areas, and will also enhance the Center’s knowledge and understanding of political context in a very complex country.

Challenging road conditions in Kasai Occidental

Photo:  L. Curtis/The Carter Center
Carter Center long-term observers face challenging road conditions in Kasai Occidental in October 2011.

“One of the most challenging aspects of our work is the logistics,” said Serge Tambwe Badibanga of the domestic observation group Réseau National pour l’Observation et la Surveillance des Elections au Congo (National Network for the Observation and Monitoring of Elections in Congo).  “Some of our observers will travel for two days—by motorcycle, dugout canoes, and bicycle—to reach their polling stations.

Lubakat men in Katanga Province

Photo:  F. Afsharnia/The Carter Center
Lubakat men with grass skirts and painted faces dance in the streets in Katanga Province to support a presidential candidate in October 2011.

The Carter Center is committed to the long-term stability of the DRC. After observing the country’s 2006 elections, the Center remained engaged through the Human Rights House in Kinshasa to provide direct support to 154 Congolese NGO partners who work against child trafficking, shepherd victims of sexual and gender-based violence through the legal system, demand the transparent and equitable use of natural resources through mining policy reform, and promote electoral reform.

DRC Election Day, Nov. 28, 2011

Photo:  G. Dubourthoumieu/The Carter Center
Congolese citizens look for their names on a list outside a polling station in Kinshasa on Nov. 28, 2011.

Quick facts:

  • DRC President Joseph Kabila’s biggest challenger in this election is opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Eleven candidates are running for  president.
  • DRC’s constitution no longer requires a candidate to gain more than 50 percent of the vote to win, so whoever receives the most votes on Nov. 28 is elected.
  • Ballots are each a bulging 56 pages; there are more than 18,000 candidates running for seats in the parliamentary elections.
  • There are 63,000 polling stations and polls will be open on election day from 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Read more:  Former Zambia President Rupiah Banda to Lead Carter Center Delegation to DRC’s Election (En anglais et en français)

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