Congo elections mostly peaceful, but fraught with problems
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Guest blogger Jason Stearns received reports of delays opening polling stations, road blocks, protests, voting fraud, and violence at polling stations – just a few of the challenges in Congo's elections.
Voting has begun peacefully in much of the country, with high turnout in many areas (including Bukavu, where I am).
However, several serious incidents have been reported. While my sources are reliable (mostly foreign observation missions, journalists and the United Nations), things are developing rapidly and I have not been able to cross-check all of the information below.
- In Lubumbashi, serious violence has erupted in various areas of town. Opposition supporters denounced the delays in opening polling stations in the Bel-Air neighborhoods where many UDPS supporters live. Road blocks were set up and protests broke out. Some time afterwards, UN reports came in regarding the blowing up of two trucks full of ballot papers that had allegedly already been filled out before voting began. Around the same time, two trucks full of sensitive election materials were set on fire in the Kenya neighborhood of town. All the while, numerous abuses have been reported by election observers in polling stations (no further information available). Armed civilians wearing red bandanas have opened fire on civilians at polling stations at Sapin Cemetary in the Ruashi neighborhood, while armed gunmen stormed another polling station in Bel Air and set it on fire. The MONUSCO staff has been forced to retreat into their compound; there are even reports of mortar fire in town;
- Election materials arrived late in much of Kinshasa. According to one international source, in Kinshasa IV (where around a quarter of the population lives) the presidential ballot papers had not arrived by noon. Heavy rain has disrupted or slowed down some of the electoral operations in town. Still the situation seems to be relatively calm, with no reports of violence in the capital;