From Human Rights Watch
(Kinshasa) – Widespread irregularities, voter suppression, and violence significantly marred elections on December 30, 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Election officials should ensure that the announced results in the presidential, legislative, and provincial elections are accurate.
More than a million Congolese were unable to vote when voting was postponed until March 2019 in three opposition areas. Other voters were unable to cast votes because of the last-minute closure of more than 1,000 polling stations in the capital, Kinshasa, problems with electronic voting machines and voter lists, and the late opening of numerous polling places across the country. People with disabilities, or who are elderly or illiterate, faced particular difficulties at polling places or using the voting machines, which had never before been used in Congo. Election observers were also denied access to numerous polling stations and vote tabulation centers.
Official election results that suggest a falsified count could generate widespread protests, raising grave concerns of violent government repression, Human Rights Watch said.
On December 31, the government shut down Internet and text messaging throughout the country, as it has done numerous times over the last four years to restrict independent reporting and information sharing. It also cut the signal for Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Kinshasa and other cities, and withdrew the accreditation for RFI’s special correspondent in Congo, who had to leave Congo on January 3.
“Congolese voters showed they were determined to participate in the democratic process in the face of rampant election-day obstacles,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately restore all communications, allow independent media outlets to operate freely, and ensure that the vote count is carried out in a credible, transparent manner.”