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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06KINSHASA827
2006-05-24 16:29:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kinshasa
Cable title:  

ELECTIONS: ELECTORAL COMMISSION FACES MAJOR

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  KPKO  CG  ELECTIONS 
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241629Z May 06
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KINSHASA 000827 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPKO CG ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: ELECTIONS: ELECTORAL COMMISSION FACES MAJOR
CHALLENGES IN EASTERN DRC


Classified By: PolOff CBrown, reasons 1.4 b/d.



1. (SBU) Summary: As it organizes the DRC's first free
elections in more than 40 years, the Independent Electoral
Commission (CEI) faces significant logistical challenges,
particularly in the eastern part of the country. The lack of
an adequate transportation infrastructure makes delivering
voting materials throughout the country difficult, thereby
delaying the Commission's civic education campaign. A
complicated payment system developed by the UNDP has resulted
in CEI workers not being paid for several months and CEI
offices not having sufficient materiel to conduct day-to-day
operations. Meanwhile, militia activity poses significant
security concerns, especially in Ituri District. The problems
faced in the east generally reflect the overall challenges
the CEI faces heading into elections. Despite these
difficulties, however, CEI officials appear committed to
successfully carrying out their mission to enable the July 30
first round elections. End summary.



2. (SBU) From May 4-10, PolOff visited North Kivu province
and Ituri District in eastern DRC to meet with a variety of
Congolese political actors, including the regional CEI
coordinators in Beni, Butembo, Bunia, Mahagi and Aru. CEI
officials PolOff met with were generally well-informed about
the electoral process and appeared to realize the enormity of
the task before them in organizing the country's first free
elections. Nearly all, however, said their work was being
made more difficult by two primary factors: lack of or
inadequate financing for their operations; and security
threats posed by militias and other armed groups.



--------------------------


THE MONEY PROBLEM


--------------------------





3. (C) From Beni to Aru, CEI officials all bemoaned the
inadequate financing (particularly in terms of salaries)
their offices received from CEI headquarters in Kinshasa and
from the UN Development Program (UNDP), which manages the
"basket fund" for the DRC's elections activities. In Beni and
Butembo, for example, the CEI coordinators said they had not
been paid since February. The CEI coordinator in Butembo,
Georgette Kibendelwa, said CEI staff who had worked during
the December constitutional referendum had not been paid
since November 2005. CEI officials in Ituri District also
said salaries had not been paid in several months. The CEI
coordinator for Mahagi, Germain Ukumu, said UNDP's payment
mechanisms were too complicated and too slow, resulting in
scores of disenchanted workers. Nonetheless, CEI officials
emphasized that despite late salaries, their respective
offices were not having trouble recruiting enough agents to
work during the forthcoming elections.




4. (C) One reason for the slowness in payments stems from the
way in which UNDP and its partners, which are generally
responsible for distributing salaries on the ground in the
DRC's provinces (since there is no organized banking system),
have managed the program. Beni's CEI coordinator, Paluku wa
Tembo, explained one particularly glaring example of the
failure to pay police officers who provided security during
the referendum. Tembo said APEC (the UNDP's implementing
partner) had contracted the Catholic relief organization
Caritas International to pay police in Beni for their work.
When Caritas arrived in Beni and established its offices to
proceed with payments, it announced that police would have to
come to Beni to be paid. However, many police were stationed
outside Beni and had no means of traveling to receive their
payments; moreover, police commanders issued orders
preventing the police from leaving their posts to go to Beni
and collect their salaries. Tembo said his office offered to
transport for Caritas the money to police elsewhere in North
Kivu, but Caritas refused, saying there were no provisions
for such transport in APEC/UNDP regulations. Consequently,
Tembo said fewer than half the police were paid, and Caritas
simply left Beni after one week still in possession of the
non-disbursed salaries (approximately USD 100,000). (Note:
UNDP officials PolOff spoke to after hearing this story said
Caritas was correct in following established guidelines, but
efforts were currently being made to ensure all past arrears
would be paid as soon as possible. End note.)



--------------------------


SHORTFALL FALLOUT


--------------------------





5. (SBU) In addition to the lack of money for salaries, CEI
officials in eastern DRC also face funding shortfalls for
everyday operations. One of the more persistent problems has
been the insufficient number of trucks and other vehicles
needed to transport elections materials throughout the
region. Most CEI liaison offices in North Kivu and Ituri in
theory each have three or four trucks, in addition to 10-15
motorbikes and several more bicycles. However, CEI officials
explained that the vehicles often break down or are not fully
suited for transporting materials over long distances,
especially in areas that have few, if any, passable roads.
Paluku wa Tembo, the CEI coordinator in Beni, said his office
was down to one functioning truck, since the other two the
CEI had were in various states of disrepair, and there was no
money to buy spare parts to fix them. July Angha, the CEI
coordinator for Aru, said his office too only possessed one
working truck, as did his counterpart in the Mahagi office.
While MONUC will be assisting the CEI with transporting
elections materials in the coming months, CEI officials on
the ground said they worried about how they would be able to
deliver equipment to more remote areas in time for the July
30 elections.



6. (SBU) The budget and logistics shortfalls have impacted
the CEI's work in the pre-election period, notably its
ability to conduct civic education campaigns. Ukumu and Angha
both said their efforts to hold training sessions with
political parties and civic education meetings with voters
were limited because they did not have sufficient funds.
Meanwhile, UNDP has financed only nine civic education
projects in all of Mahagi and Aru territories, which include
nearly 670,000 registered voters combined. In addition,
because their offices lack adequate transportation means, the
CEI programs are largely confined to the areas immediately
surrounding Mahagi and Aru. Consequently, both said large
numbers of the population outside the main towns were not
receiving any information directly from the CEI, and thus
were poorly informed about the electoral process as a whole.
(Note: This assessment was shared by many others throughout
North Kivu and Ituri regarding the CEI's role in civic
education. However, several other NGOs have been conducting
such programs, including the Catholic Church's CARTEC
network, with a greater degree of success in eastern DRC. End
note.)



--------------------------


THE PROBLEMS AHEAD


--------------------------





7. (SBU) The CEI will face logistical difficulties during the
elections themselves. Following the lessons learned from the
December referendum, the CEI increased the number of voting
stations throughout the country to 53,000 (vice 40,000). In
so doing, CEI officials anticipated the number of voters
assigned per station would decrease to 500 on average (vice
750), thereby allowing voting operations to conclude in one
day. (Note: The referendum, originally scheduled for one day,
was extended a second day after thousands of voters were
unable to cast ballots due to logistical and other delays.
End note.) However, most CEI officials PolOff spoke to said
it would still likely be impossible to finish voting in one
day despite the increase in voting locations. Mahagi's CEI
coordinator Germain Ukumu said that, even if just half the
population turned out to vote, each voter would, on average,
have less than three minutes to vote (for both presidential
and legislative candidates, on separate ballots) if all
voting operations were to be concluded in the allotted 11
hours. This average time per voter, though, will be even less
throughout eastern DRC, as this region had one of the highest
voter turnout rates (over 85 percent of eligible voters) in
the country.



8. (SBU) CEI spokesman Dieudonne Mirimo said the Commission's
solution to this problem is to allow those voters still in
line when polls close at 5:00 p.m. to cast ballots. Mirimo
said the president of each voting site will be allowed to
make that decision independently and can carry out voting
until all voters have cast their ballots, regardless of the
hour. The problem this presents is that since much of the DRC
lacks reliable sources of electricity, voting will be taking
place literally in the dark. The CEI does not have the means
to provide all voting centers with enough generators and fuel
to continue voting past sunset. While a battery-operated lamp
will be provided to each voting station for the counting
process, these lamps are unlikely to be able to illuminate an
entire room.



9. (C) If voting were to be extended a second day (which CEI
President Abbe Apollinaire Malu Malu has insisted will not
happen), other logistical problems will emerge. The primary
concern for CEI officials will be securing ballots and voting
centers overnight, as well as communicating well in advance
the procedures for safeguarding election materials. CEI
officials in eastern DRC told PolOff there have been no
discussions with national CEI authorities regarding this
possibility, even though they have raised their concerns to
Kinshasa several times. To avoid this problem during the
referendum, in many cases election workers slept at the
voting stations to ensure the safety of ballots already cast.



10. (C) Furthermore, as pointed out by Germain Ukumu in
Mahagi, several CEI offices do not have sufficient storage
facilities to hold election material before the vote takes
place. Ukumu said he was still trying to find secure
locations in which to place ballot boxes, voting booths and
ballots, and added that he did not know if his office in any
case would be able to pay the required rental fees. In many
locations, MONUC will store voting material before it is
delivered to voting sites. However, even MONUC officials
admitted they lack adequate storage facilities, and pointed
out as well that MONUC does not have such locations in most
areas.



--------------------------


SECURITY FEARS


--------------------------





11. (C) Another major concern of CEI officials in eastern DRC
is the security threat posed by militias and other armed
groups, as well as (in more isolated incidents) the Congolese
military. CEI officials in Beni and Butembo said the
continuing activities of Mai Mai and FDLR forces in North
Kivu contributed to an overall sense of instability, making
it more difficult for them to distribute election materials
and to conduct civic education campaigns. Officials in North
Kivu said they thought MONUC and the international community
needed to do more to secure the elections process and to
ensure that these groups would not try to reverse election
results. Likewise, in Ituri, CEI officials said a good deal
of their work -- particularly in Mahagi territory -- was
hampered by militia presence. The CEI coordinators of Bunia
and Mahagi also said certain elements of the Armed Forces of
the DRC (FARDC) contributed to security problems by stealing
voter registration cards from civilians and harassing
election workers delivering materials in the field. Overall,
though, most CEI officials said they were more concerned
about the post-electoral security situation.



12. (C) In addition to these external threats, CEI offices in
the east (and in many other parts of the DRC) have faced
problems from their own workers. A primary motivation for
these disaffected workers has been financial gain. In Aru,
for example, a former CEI computer expert was found guilty of
stealing more than 20 computers, 10 printers, seven scanners
and two cameras from the CEI's offices there. Eight of the
stolen computers were recovered (four of them in Uganda), but
the rest of the material remains missing and has not been
replaced. CEI officials in North Kivu and Ituri said they had
all been victims of petty theft, and disgruntled workers had
on several occasions protested outside CEI offices for not
being paid. While CEI officials PolOff met with said they did
not expect major disruptions from their workers during the
elections, they nonetheless admitted that if salaries were
not paid promptly, it would certainly affect morale.



--------------------------


CEI WORKING ON SOLUTIONS


--------------------------





13. (C) National CEI officials say they are aware of the
problems in eastern DRC and throughout the rest of the
country. The CEI's 2nd Vice President, Norbert Basengezi,
said the Commission was in the process of paying salaries
still owed to election workers, and that he hoped all
payments would be made by the end of May. (Note: Nearly 80
CEI workers in Mahagi were being paid when PolOff visited CEI
offices there May 8. End note.) As for the lack of equipment
and financing, CEI President Malu Malu told PolOff during a
May 15 meeting that the CEI was currently conducting an audit
of all its provincial offices to determine what needs still
had to be met before the July 30 elections. Malu Malu said he
realized provincial offices still required some basic items
like photocopiers, but he was not sure how the CEI would come
up with the money needed for these projects in time.



--------------------------



--------------------------


COMMENT: PROBLEMS ARE REAL, BUT NOT INSURMOUNTABLE


--------------------------



--------------------------





14. (SBU) Some of the concerns expressed by CEI officials in
eastern DRC regarding money and logistics are exaggerated.
While payment for workers has been slow, CEI provincial
offices are sometimes themselves to blame for submitting
incomplete receipts and managing funds improperly. In terms
of logistics, MONUC will provide the bulk of transportation
assistance before elections, giving CEI officials enough time
to put together plans to ensure the delivery of materials in
a timely manner. Nonetheless, the monetary shortfalls CEI
officials experience have impacted their ability to conduct
civic education campaigns, which is a disservice to the
voting population. The difficulties election workers face are
real, but not insurmountable. Certainly, there will be many
logistical and other errors during the vote, as a project of
this magnitude has never been undertaken in a country like
the DRC that lacks basic infrastructure. Security remains an
ever-present issue as well. But if the experience of the
referendum is any guide, voting will take place, albeit with
difficulties. Despite these challenges, CEI officials remain
committed to seeing elections through to the end, and benefit
as well from a population in eastern DRC that strongly
supports the electoral process. End comment.
MEECE