For ‘unsafe’ Eastern regions in DRC, voting remains a distant dream

Sunday November 19 2023

Voters register at a centre in Goma, DRC on February 16, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Congolese authorities have admitted difficulties in preparing the eastern parts of the country for elections because of the new violence.

President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday said the immediate priority was to resettle displaced people. This too has faced a challenge from renewed violence.

“I accept it, albeit with difficulty, but I accept.

“We are continuing to make efforts to bring our people back to their homes, to their villages,” the president said in an interview recorded earlier but only publicised on Friday by Radio France International and France 24 TV.

Read: Insecurity fears in Eastern DRC ahead of elections

Electoral managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo had increasingly resigned to the fact that parts of the country in the east where violence has resurfaced would be excluded from the elections due on December 20.


The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) chair Denis Kadima had earlier assured the public that the elections would be on schedule.

It is now clear that eastern regions like Masisi, Rutshuru and parts of Nyirangongo, in North Kivu will be excluded. There is a fresh war in this Kivu region which has prevented many Congolese from registering on the electoral roll. Ceni admitted that there was a huge backlog.

Mr Kadima’s fears, first expressed at the very beginning of his mandate, have been confirmed. When he took up the position, he often cited security constraints as a major obstacle to successful elections.

Far from the troubled provinces of Kivu, Kwamouth, in Kwango province, and the surrounding area, some 100 kilometres from the city of Kinshasa, are also likely to miss the election. In these territories, a dispute over agricultural royalties has led to a bloody conflict between the communities, causing militia incursions as far as the outskirts of Kinshasa. The fighting has resulted in nearly 300 deaths over the past year, according to Congolese officials.

According to Mr Kadima, Ceni is ready to carry out voter registration in 10 days if the situation improves.

Read: DRC elections attract 23 opponents for Tshisekedi

No one is hiding their doubts about the participation in the elections of the Congolese from Masisi, Rutshuru, Nyirangongo and Kwamouth. The First Vice-Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Bienvenu Ilanga, publicly expressed his doubts this week.

“For Masisi and Rutshuru, everything will depend on developments in the security situation in our country. So, we’re going to wait until the conditions are right for us to get moving, if need be”, said Jules Mugiraneza, an MP in the outgoing National Assembly.

Mugiraneza expressed the willingness of the local people to participate in the elections.

The people, he added, had a “deep and legitimate desire” to be registered like other compatriots.

The government in Kinshasa, however, remains optimistic.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that Congolese living in the territories controlled by the M23 rebels (Masisi and Rutshuru) and the Mobondo Kwamouth militia (Mai Ndombe) can take part in the electoral cycle,” said Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman.

Last month, at a meeting of members of the government, President Félix Tshisekedi gave instructions to the government, in particular to Prime Minister Sama Lukonde and the Ministers of the Interior and Defence, to ensure the security of electoral operations in the territories of Kwamouth, Masisi and Rutshuru.

But, with just one day to go before the start of the electoral campaign, virtually all the people displaced by war are not going to elect their candidates.

Read: Congo’s countdown to polls a hot potato

There are now nearly 7 million people who have fled the violence in their villages, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.

A record 6.9 million people have been forced to leave their homes inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” said the United Nations Migration Agency on October 30.

Meanwhile, the DRC is also struggling to find an international partner who will help pin down the rebels.

President Tshisekedi, having grown frustrated with the East African Community Regional Force now wants the mission to leave by December 8.

Instead, he is banking on 500 troops the Southern Africa Development Cooperation recently pledged to deploy.

The southern Africa bloc has, however, not announced definite dates for the deployment.

The dilemma comes as the UN mission, known as Monusco, prepares to begin departure from the country starting December.