An early-morning fire in Congo’s capital destroyed thousands of voting machines just 10 days before the presidential election, officials said Thursday, saying the blaze appeared to be criminal in nature but vowing that it would not disrupt the vote. Congo’s first use of voting machines on Dec. 23, a rarity in Africa, has caused concerns among the opposition, diplomats and experts about possible manipulation in favor of President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor. Kabila is stepping aside after taking power in 2001. The electoral commission said the fire broke out at a warehouse in Kinshasa, adding that it was too early to declare the cause or the extent of the damage.
Kabila’s chief adviser said the fire was a criminal one and that some 7,000 voting machines and polling booths were burned. “The enemies of democracy have stepped it up a gear,” Barnabe Kikaya said.
Congo’s security minister said the number represents 10 percent of the voting machines for Kinshasa but added they will be replaced “very quickly.”
“We cannot make quick conclusions but the criminal hypothesis is not to be dismissed,” the minister, Henri Mova, said, noting that the fire had two starting points, suggesting a simultaneous beginning.
Full Article: Fire destroys thousands of Congo voting machines in capital.