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'The challenges are huge in this vast country'

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-11-25

DR Congo will hold its second-ever democratic elections on Nov 28. FRANCE 24 spoke to Mathieu Bile, Director of the Election Division of the UN mission in the country, about the vote's challenges.

On November 28, the Democratic Republic of Congo will head to the polls for parliamentary and presidential elections. The United Nations has expressed concern over pre-election violence, and many observers fear it could escalate following what could be tight results.

Furthermore, opposition groups have called the fairness of the vote into question, citing irregularities and claiming the country is technically unprepared to hold elections.

Despite a limited and often poor roadway system, the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) hopes to deliver the 186,000 ballot boxes and 64 million paper ballots to all the country’s regions before November 26.

Mathieu Bile is the Director of the Electoral Division with the United Nation’s mission, Monusco, in the country. He was appointed to lead the UN’s election assistance team in August after a UN aircraft crashed in April, killing 32 people onboard, including his predecessor at the division.

A human rights activist, Bile has served the UN as a top election expert in Haiti, Guinea and Burundi, among several other countries. FRANCE 24 asked him about the concerns of election fraud and the challenges of organising general elections in DRC, a country larger than the combined areas of France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece and Belgium.

FRANCE 24: Opposition groups have said the country is not ready to hold elections. What is your assessment?

Mathieu Bile:
The opposition has consistently voiced concerns. The challenges are huge and we are confronted with very difficult conditions in a very vast territory. But we are doing our best to help the CENI deploy all the voting materials on time. For example, we have helped them use helicopters to get the materials to the areas that are most difficult to reach. Our role is to support the CENI in its work. [The CENI] is determined to hold the elections under good conditions on the 28 [of November], and we are supporting them in this goal. I can tell you that all the ballots that were printed in South Africa arrived in the DRC by Nov 21. I can’t say if all the ballots have reached their destination, but with the help of international partners we are doing our best to meet the ballot deployment plan for each region. We have not encountered bad weather, which has allowed us to give more attention to the most difficult-to-reach zones.

F24: What has your work specifically consisted of ahead of the elections?

MB: Our work mostly consists of offering logistical and technical assistance to the CENI. We have helped manage financial donations that have been made by some in the international community for the election. For example, and among other things, helping the CENI use those funds to pay people who will work during election day.

We have offered them information on the best use of helicopters to distribute ballots. We also offer ideas to better manage the election. We advised the CENI to allow citizens to consult their polling station by mobile text messages. The law in the DRC says each presidential candidate must be assigned 25 police officers on election day for his or her security.

We have given advice about the best way to coordinate and position these men. On our advice the CENI organised a forum for young people about what role they can play in the elections, so that political camps will not exploit young people to perpetuate violent acts.

F24: Does your mission end on November 28?

MB: Our mission in the DRC is for the 2012-2013 election cycle. Immediately after the election we will support the work of collecting and transporting the ballots. But we will remain in the country to assist with regional and local elections this year and next year.

FRANCE 24: Does your close work with the CENI expose you to criticism or suspicion from groups in the DRC?

MB: Our mission is to be of logistical and technical support to the CENI, so it can accomplish its own objectives. Our mission also consists of offering advice on certain actions. It is not in our mandate to evaluate the work of the CENI and say whether it is good or bad. I would say we have very good relations. If people have suspicions, it is at that moment that we need to explain that we only offer additional assistance to the CENI’s own strategic plan, not to tell them how to do their work.

Even under the best conditions there will be rumours, suspicions and allegations of fraud. We can’t avoid that, all we can do is remind them that the responsibility for the polls lies with the CENI.

Date created : 2011-11-25


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