Congo’s government is moving forward with plans to use electronic voting machines in this year’s highly anticipated presidential election despite warnings from watchdog groups that transparency and credibility could suffer. The vast, mineral-rich nation is under pressure to ensure a fair election in December amid concerns that President Joseph Kabila, in office since 2001, will try to run again or hold on to power. He has remained after his mandate ended in late 2016 as the election has been delayed. While Kabila cannot legally stand for a third term, the opposition worries he will. Already the election delays have been met with deadly protests. As candidates face an August deadline to declare, the voting machines have become a focus of growing concern that the vote could be manipulated.
They threaten “electoral transparency as well as the overall credibility of Congo’s electoral process,” says a report released Wednesday by The Sentry, an investigative group focusing on the financial networks behind conflicts in Africa.
The machines ordered by Congo’s government are made by South Korean firm Miru Systems Co., which created machines for the Argentine elections in 2017. The machines ultimately were not selected for use in those elections because of security issues that made them vulnerable to hackers, said Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy at the Enough Project, a watchdog group that works with The Sentry.