“Between 1 January 2017 and 31 January 2018, at least 47 people, including women and children, were killed by security services and defence forces in the context of demonstrations and there are indications that Congolese security services have attempted to cover up these serious human rights violations by removing the bodies of victims and obstructing the work of national and international observers, the report states.the report states (TOA, 2018).
But now there is hope that the current elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be different. The United Nations briefings have also included hopeful presentations on “The Electoral Process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” which addressed the electoral calendar, progress and challenges to the electoral cycle, and the potential implementation of electronic voting machines. New outcomes are expected due to the cooperation of several organizations working on voter registration drives, providing technical assistance to voters so they know where to vote, and strengthening the vote tabulation accuracy. These organizations include the Consortium for Political Process Strengthening, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute.
Since 2016, IFES and its partners from the Consortium for Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, have conducted a series of technical assessment missions on voter registration and election preparedness to support credible, transparent, and inclusive election processes in the DRC. Alongside its CEPPS partner IRI, IFES is working to provide technical assistance to the CENI under the current “USAID/DRC Funded Electoral Integrity Activity.” Under this program IFES is working to increase access to the voter register for Congolese citizens by providing technical support in implementing a text messaging platform that voters can use to check their polling station location and registration status. IFES is also providing technical assistance to the CENI on strengthening the chain of custody in tabulation and results transmission. Lastly, IFES will continue to engage in the overall capacity building of the CENI and to provide support in preparation for the 2019 local elections (I.F.E.S., N.D.).
Violence against women has been a prevalent issue in the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sexual violence is perpetrated to deter their participation.
Congolese women’s exclusion from decision-making is rooted both in patriarchal values and in the absence of a functional state apparatus. Gender stereotypes rooted within communities, a wide education gap between men and women, and exclusion from public life, are the main causes of gender imbalance in leadership positions in the social as well as political domains.
Despite the promulgation of a gender-sensitive post-conflict constitution, women’s participation in political life in DRC is among the lowest in Africa (International Alert, N.D.).
In spite of all the progress, fear and doubt remain powerful issues. People in the Congo are still concerned about electronic voting machines that might be vulnerable to security issues in upcoming elections in Africa. The technology was created by a South Korean company which built similar machines for elections in Argentina last year. But the devices were then rejected because of security issues that made them vulnerable to hackers (Soi, 2018).
In spite of concerns, the current elections will go forward in what may be the most open and legitimate elections ever held in the DRC. This hope for fair elections is based on overall improvements in electoral system design.
Open and transparent electoral system design can be an effective mechanism for voters to express their will and shape the democratic institutions of the country. The design of a country’s electoral system has a direct impact on how various stakeholders interact with the political process, including the formation and development of political parties; representation of ideological and geographic interests; and opportunities for women, minorities, and marginalized groups to participate fully in the electoral and political process (IFES, N.D.).