FINAL REPORT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN OBSERVER MISSION IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DRC) 30 JULY 2006 ELECTIONS
Cape Town, 7 September 2006

 

1.†††††††† INTRODUCTION

South Africa deployed a 108-member national observer mission to observe the 30 July 2006 presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was in response to an invitation by the Independent Electoral Commission of the DRC. The South African Observer Mission (SAOM) was multi-sectoral in its composition, consisting of Members of Parliament (MPs), government officials, religious groups as well as civil society organisations. Mr Mluleki George, Deputy Minister of Defence, led the SAOM.

 

For about ten years, South Africa has had the opportunity to work in solidarity with the people of Congo to restore peace, national unity and democracy to the DRC. Guided by her commitment to the African Agenda, peace, security and development, South Africa has travelled the road to this day with the people of Congo.

 

Beyond the elections, South Africa will continue to work closely with the democratically elected government that will emerge in that country. The international community of which South Africa is an integral part will still need to continue to assist the DRC as the country embarks on its post-conflict reconstruction and development. Focus areas that will require sustained support are, among others, Security Sector Reform (SSR), support for public administration and governance, infrastructure development, economic development. South Africaís post election engagement in the DRC will be informed by the General Co-operation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed on 14th January 2004. The two countries signed this Agreement motivated by the wish to forge inter-African co-operation in all areas, desiring to consolidate and strengthen friendship, understanding and solidarity between their peoples on the basis of mutual respect. In a nutshell, the Agreement seeks to promote political, economic and social co-operation between the two countries. Consequently, twenty-six sectoral agreements have been signed between various Ministries/Departments of the two countries since 2004.

 

Members of the SAOM arrived in the DRC on 19 July 2006 and observed all the phases of the elections. The SAOM is pleased to release its final report on the July 2006 DRCís presidential and legislative elections. This report covers the period from 19 July until the official announcement of the provisional presidential results, 20 August 2006. The SAOM noted with satisfaction the release of the provisional presidential results on 20 August 2006, which indicated that President Joseph Kabila and Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba will go to the presidential runoff, i.e. the second round of presidential elections.

 

The SAOM however noted with great concern the violent clashes between certain armed elements that took place in Kinshasa from 20 to 22 August 2006 leaving many people dead and others injured. In this regard, the SAOM calls upon the Congolese political leadership to exercise restraint and totally refrain from any threats or use of force or intimidation against one another. The SAOM believes that the people of Congo have suffered a lot over the years and deserve peace and stability in their motherland. The people of Congo clearly demonstrated their desire for peace by the manner in which they turned up in large numbers to cast their votes on the Election Day. Over 70% of the registered voters cast their votes. In addition, the SAOM noted with great appreciation the manner in which the ordinary Congolese seem to have accepted the results of the elections.

 

The SAOM urges the Congolese people in particular the political leaders to continue their peaceful participation in the electoral process in the spirit of national reconciliation and democracy. Political dialogue not confrontation will bring lasting peace to the DRC. In this regard, South Africa will continue to encourage the Congolese political leadership to achieve this objective.

 

Considering the background of civil strife and autocratic rule, which marked most of the countryís history since independence, infrastructure challenges and the fact that these elections were the first democratic elections in forty years, the July 2006 DRC presidential and legislative elections were remarkable achievement and success.

 

On the basis of verifiable observations made in accordance with the DRC Electoral Law, SADC Election Management, Monitoring and Observation and internationally accepted guidelines, the leader of the Mission and the South African observers are of the view that the 30 July 2006 presidential and legislative elections of the DRC were democratic, peaceful, credible and transparent.

 

In this regard, the SAOM urges all the people of the DRC, especially the political party leaders, to welcome and accept the outcome of the elections and should begin to prepare for the second round of the presidential elections that will run concurrently with the provincial elections on 29 October 2006.

 

1.1††††††† Background / Context

 

The elections of 30 July 2006 were only the second democratic elections in the DRCís history. Since independence, the country for a period of more than forty years experienced a history that was characterised by dictatorship and subsequent civil war. The civil war caused great damage to the socio-economic fibre of the country. The civil war and its related consequences left close to four million people dead and many more displaced presenting huge problems for the country and international humanitarian organisations.

 

Efforts to bring about peace in the DRC culminated in the signing in Pretoria of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on 16 December 2002. This agreement was endorsed at the final session of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue at Sun City in April 2003. In terms of this agreement, the parties involved committed themselves to the establishment of a representative transitional government and holding of democratic elections.

 

In their millions, the people of Congo demonstrated their determination to bring peace and democracy to their country during the December 2005 Constitutional Referendum which was subsequently adopted in February 2006.

 

By March 2006, the DRCís political transition had reached a crucial stage. The adoption and the promulgation of the new constitution endorsed by 84% of the population in a successful December 2005 Referendum paved the way for the landmark presidential and legislative elections.

 

1.2††††††† Composition of the Mission

 

South Africa deployed a 108-member national observer mission to observe the elections. The South African Observer Mission (SAOM) was multi-sectoral in its composition, consisting of Members of Parliament (MPs), government officials, religious groups as well as civil society organisations. Mr Mluleki George, Deputy Minister of Defence, led the SAOM.

 

The leader of the South African Observer Mission expressed profound gratitude to the organisations that seconded their officials to form part of the South African Mission. These officials individually and collectively demonstrated incredible determination, dedication and professionalism. They were true ambassadors for South Africa.†††

 

1.3††††††† Principles for the South African Observer Mission

 

Noting that both South Africa and the DRC are members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region (PEMMO) together with other internationally accepted guidelines were used as points of reference for the observation of the DRC Elections.

 

1.4††††††† Method of Work

 

In the execution of its mandate, the Mission recognised the sovereignty of the DRC state and observed the elections in an independent and non-partisan manner. The Mission collected data by attending rallies, meetings called by the various presidential and parliamentary candidates as well as other relevant stakeholders. The Mission observed the general atmosphere of the election campaign, voting process and the counting and results capturing processes.

 

In addition, the SAOM was constituted, among others, to assess whether conditions existed for an election to take place in which the people of Congo could exercise their democratic right to vote.

 

The Mission also assessed whether the ordinary Congolese voters had sufficient security to cast their vote in secret. The SAOM further assessed whether the elections were indeed conducted within the legal frameworks enshrined in both the Constitution and the Electoral Law.

 

1.5††††††† Deployment and observation of the voting process

 

The South African observers were deployed in all eleven provinces of the DRC with an average of three teams in each province. The deployment in all the provinces provided the SAOM with a general sense of what was taking place in the entire country.

 

This wide geographical spread enabled the Mission to confidently comment on these elections. In many places where the SAOM was deployed, there were no other international observers. In such places, the SAOM teamed up with the national observers resulting in the development of mutual trust and respect, as both groups strove to ensure credibility of the elections.†††

 

1.6††††††† Meetings with Stakeholders

 

The Mission met with the CEI, political parties, various candidates and civil society groups. The Mission also consulted with other observer missions, including South African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK) United States of America (USA), Committee of the Wise, the Carter Centre, and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Civil Society Framework for Co-operation in Election Observation, among others.

 

The Mission regularly met with CEI, MONUC and the representatives of the National Police (PNC) to discuss securisation of the elections. The SAOM was impressed by the manner in which these institutions were prepared to make themselves available for meetings despite their busy and demanding schedules.

 

The SAOM noted the willingness and determination of many international and national observers to assist the people of Congo. International observers managed to be present in all corners of the DRC, possibly motivated with the desire to give credibility to these landmark elections.††

 

 

 

 

 

2.†††††††† FINDINGS OF THE MISSION

 

2.1††††††† ELECTORAL FRAMEWORK

 

2.1.1†††† Legal Framework of the 2006 Elections in the DRC

 

Towards the end of 2005, the DRCís Transitional Government put in place legislative frameworks that paved the way for holding of the democratic presidential and legislative elections.

 

On 21 February 2006, the Electoral Law was adopted by the DRC Parliament. According to the law, elections to the national and provincial assemblies would be conducted under a proportional representation system, with an open list of candidates. The President of the Republic is elected by majority vote in two rounds, if necessary.At the second round, only the two candidates having received the largest number of votes are permitted to stand for presidential elections.

 

The presence of the institutions in support of democracy, as entrenched in Articles 211 and 212 of the 2006 Constitution provides credibility to the currently existing legal framework in the DRC. These include the CEI, which has the primary responsibility for the organisation of the electoral process. The Commission also has the duty of ensuring the regularity of the electoral process.

 

2.1.2†††† Registration and Votersí Roll

 

The current voterís roll in the DRC is based on the registration that was conducted before Constitutional Referendum of December 2005, where close to 25 million out of the targeted 28 million eligible voters registered. Article 5 of the countryís electoral law stipulates conditions for one to become a voter. The registered voters were issued with voter cards, which they were required to produce at the polling stations.

 

The South African Observer Mission confirmed that the votersí roll was made available at the polling stations and centres for inspection. The Mission further noted that before Election Day, many voters went to check their names on the roll. The SAOM noted that voters whose names did not appear on the roll were assisted by the CEI. In many instances, those who lost their voting cards were issued with duplicate cards to enable them to vote.

 

2.1.3†††† Registration of Political Parties and Nomination of Candidates

 

In terms of the law, presidential candidates must be Congolese citizens of, at least, 30 years of age, who enjoy full civil and political rights and are not disqualified according to criteria defined by the Electoral Law. Similar criteria apply to candidates for the National Assembly, except that the minimum age for such candidates is 25 years. In total, close to 270 parties registered for the elections. There were 33 presidential candidates and 9 632 candidates for the 500-seat National Assembly.

 

The SAOM noted that the stipulated equal representation of men and women was not adhered to by the political parties in their nomination of candidates. This resulted in the nomination of only four female presidential candidates.

 

2.1.4†††† The Electoral Commission (CEI)

 

The mandate of the CEI is to prepare and administer the elections in the DRC. The CEI was able to partner with other institutions in the country, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), youth organisations, political parties and community-based organisations.

 

Under very difficult conditions, logistical challenges and limited resources, the CEI staff members displayed a high degree of professionalism, independence and impartiality.In general, the CEI was able to fulfil its responsibilities, which include the responsibility of coordinating awareness campaigns and ensuring that the electorate is well informed about the electoral process. The CEI remarkably managed to deliver the election material at all polling stations in this vast country.

 

The SAOM noted the important contribution of the international community in assisting the CEI accomplish some of its objectives. In this regard, the SAOM commends the South African Independent Electoral Commission for deploying its expects throughout the DRC to assist its DRC sister organisation (CEI) to execute its mandate.††

 

2.1.5†††† Media

 

Freedom of expression remains one of critical tools used as a yardstick to measure a countryís adherence to principles of good governance. The election process in the DRC received extensive coverage in the countryís media.

 

The Media Regulator Authority, in consultation with the CEI, was to a greater extent, able to ensure equitable access to the public media and the allocation of airtime during the elections as stipulated by the Electoral Law. The Media Authority ensured that all the presidential candidates had equal access to the public media over which it has control. The Media Authority obviously does not have control over the private media in terms of access and those presidential candidates who have financial resources had more access. However, the Media Authority was able to ensure that all the media including privately owned observed the required regulations. The media that violated stipulated regulations was dealt with accordingly.

 

In general, there had been a wide coverage of the electoral process including the election campaign and elections.

 

The SAOM came to the conclusion that the election campaign was conducted in a climate free from fear of repression of divergent viewpoints and intimidation.

 

2.1.6†††† Campaigning / Political Violence and Intimidation

 

As stipulated in Article 28 of the DRCís Electoral Law that the election campaign is open maximum thirty days prior to the voting date and ends twenty-four hours before this date, the SAOM confirmed that indeed this stipulation of the electoral law was observed.

 

The election campaign process proceeded in a relatively peaceful environment. Political candidates were able to conduct their election campaigns without interference. Political rallies were well attended and in most cases went without incident.

 

The SAOM noted with regret that some lives were lost during isolated incidents of violence. While this was tragic, the election campaigns, in general, proceeded peacefully and voters were not deterred from going to voting stations on Election Day.

 

Overall, there were high levels of political tolerance demonstrated by candidates and the electorate. Even groups that were, for various reasons, opposed to the elections were given the opportunity to embark on peaceful protests.

 

2.1.7†††† Civic and Voter Education

 

Civic and voter education form a critical part in creating an environment conducive to holding credible democratic elections. According to the Electoral Law, the CEI is responsible for implementing and coordinating voter information programmes for voter and civic education campaigns.

 

As these were the first democratic elections in forty years, there was a need for extensive voter education. Civic education plays an important role in raising public awareness, confidence and legitimacy in the electoral process.

 

The SAOM noted evidence of an effective education campaign conducted in a multi-faceted fashion which drew in governmental, non-governmental and political party resources and networks. The SAOM noted the important role played by radio in the education programmes. This helped some of the many people who do not have access to televisions and newspapers. The Mission noted that the electorate was reasonably satisfied with civic and voter education and had a good sense of where their polling stations would be located.

 

Despite the high voter turnout and the complexity of the ballot papers, voting was completed in good time over one day. The Mission ascribed this to the level of civic and voter education undertaken by CEI. In this regard, the Mission commends CEI, despite its limited financial resources, for having been able to successfully conduct civic and voter education in a large country as the DRC.

 

2.1.8†††† Election Day

 

Voting took place in all the eleven provinces of the country in about 50 000 polling stations. The majority of voting stations opened on time with a few exceptions where stations opened late due to a number of problems including lack of electricity and late delivery of election material. In general, voting proceeded smoothly in the presence of party agents and national and international election observers.

 

The SAOM also noted cases where ballot boxes, due to the size of some of the ballot papers, filled up quickly. Additional ballot boxes were, however, supplied timeously. This did not have any material impact on the voting process.

 

The SAOM did not observe any incidents of irregularities with the voting process. On the contrary, Election Day was marked by a general atmosphere of calm. Voters patiently stood in queues waiting to cast their votes. The SAOM noted a sense of excitement on the part of the voters. Remembering their own first democratic General Elections in South Africa in 1994, the SAOM could not but share the excitement and a sense of relief of the people of Congo.

 

The Mission commends the CEI for the professional and impartial manner in which it conducted and managed these elections, thereby creating space for voters to express their choices freely and without fear of intimidation.

 

The SAOM concludes that the elections were conducted in a peaceful, democratic and credible manner.

 

3.†††††††† COUNTING PROCESS AND ITS TRANPARENCY

 

The results compilation and verification process was very transparent. Party agents representing political parties and independent candidates were present all the time. Cell phones were allowed inside the premises. Journalists were given unrestricted access to the centre. Some used media-recording devices such as video cameras to record the process.

 

National and international observer groups were allowed to observe and monitor the process.The SAOM noted that even after three weeks since the Election Day a few international observers were still present in the country observing results compilation and capturing process. The CEI adopted a system whereby every voting station was also a counting centre and 6 voting stations constituted a results centre.††

 

It is the view of the Mission that the unrestricted access and openness of the process at the results centres indicated a high level of transparency. The Mission is of the view that this unrestricted access by the media, party agents and observers has assisted in improving the confidence and legitimacy in the process and reducing the likelihood of tempering with the data.

 

3.1††††††† Security at the results centres

 

The Mission observed the high presence of Congolese police and UN Forces at the centre throughout the entire process. Searches were conducted on entry and exit of the premises. Access to the premise was controlled and only accredited persons were allowed inside.

 

Party agents, observers and media were registered on entry at the centres and were further required to register before gaining entry inside the results centres.

 

The high level of security maintained meant that no election material could be brought inside or taken out of the premises, and that no unauthorised person could gain access to the centres.It is the view of the SAOM that security at the premises was not compromised at any time throughout the compilation of the results.

 

The SAOM commends the DRC National Police (PNC) and MONUC for securing the elections. The PNC displayed a high level of professionalism.

 

3.2††††††† Party Agents

 

Party agents representing various political parties and independent candidates were present throughout the period. Party agents monitored the entire process of results registration, verification and capturing into the computers.††

 

The SAOM commends the dedication of party agents who spent long hours at the results centres.

 

The Mission further noted high levels of mutual tolerance by party agents. There was no noticeable hostility or displayed disruptive behaviour, which sought to derail or obstruct the process.

 

The SAOM noted though that some party agents were making telephone calls releasing election results from polling stations. This obviously created confusion. The SAOM recommends that this practice should be avoided in future elections.

 

 

3.3††††††† CEI Staff

 

The SAOM commends the Congolese CEI Staff for their commitment despite working under very difficult conditions. The staff worked long hours without sufficient rest and adequate supply of water and food. The Mission also noted with appreciation the introduction of personnel shifts to provide some relief to the long hours and also helped to speed up the process.

 

The SAOM noted that in some places CEI officials complained about non-payment of their allowances. Some officials indicated that they had not been paid their December 2005 Referendum allowances. The Mission observed that despite these complaints, CEI staff members continued to perform their duties with remarkable determination, enthusiasm and belief in the knowledge that their service was good for the country. These dedicated officials put the future of their country first.

 

3.4††††††† IEC South Africa Support Staff

 

The SAOM noted warm and co-operative working relationship between the IEC South Africa and CEI staff. IEC Staff displayed an understanding of the process, provided technical competency and advice when needed, and generally transferred the necessary skills to their Congolese counterparts.

 

It is the view of the Mission that the well co-ordinated relationship and the readiness of the Congolese to receive the support of their South African counterparts contributed to the creation of a positive working environment. The SAOM is confident that the CEI would, with this experience, be in a position to manage the countryís future elections with minimal foreign technical assistance.

 

3.5††††††† IT Support Team and IT Infrastructure

 

The Mission also noted a positive working relationship between the South African IT support team and their Congolese counterparts. Technical skills in data capturing were readily transferred to the Congolese who then took charge of the process.

 

The capturing of the data using Portable Data Units, done on the Results Centre floors in the presence of party agents and observers, further helped in improving the confidence in the data.

 

The Mission also noted that in order to access the data base, three officials with their individualised password needed to open the system. This meant that the data in the system could not be tempered with.

 

 

 

3.6††††††† Election Material (ballot papers and results slips) from various polling stations

 

The SAOM observed that some election material from various polling stations appeared not to have been properly stored at the results centres. This aroused fear that critical election information may be misplaced. The Mission observed, however, that CEI later re-labelled the material and orderly repacked it in clearly marked bags, and ferried it to other storage locations under DRC police and MONUC escort.It is the Missionís view that what could potentially have been a serious problem, namely, damage to the election material, was avoided timeously.

 

The SAOM did not observe the compilation of National Deputies results, but confined itself to the Presidential Elections results.

 

The SAOM concludes, based on its observation through daily visits to the results centres, that the tracking of daily results statistics from other centres and provinces, and the interaction with the various role players at the centres, that the Presidential results registration, verification and capturing process was transparent; the elections material and the premises had the necessary and sufficient security; the CEI staff conducted itself professionally and competently; and that the capturing of data was conducted with integrity.

 

4.†††††††† OBSERVATIONS

 

The SAOM wishes to thank the CEI and the people of the DRC for the opportunity to have been invited to observe these historic elections. During the period of their stay in the DRC, members of the Mission experienced warm hospitality and support.

 

The SAOM observed that during these elections the people of the DRC were provided with a platform to freely elect representatives of their choice. Voting took place in a reasonably peaceful environment and electoral officers managed to perform their tasks admirably despite several limitations.

 

Election Day was marked by high visibility of security personnel within the stipulated distance. Their presence contributed to an atmosphere of calm and security.

 

On the basis of observations made, which were conducted in accordance with the DRC Electoral Law, SADC Election Management, Monitoring and Observation and internationally accepted guidelines, the leader of the Mission and South African observers conclude that the presidential and parliamentary elections of 30 July 2006 were democratic, peaceful, credible and remarkably transparent. The Mission is confident that space was created for the people of the DRC to express themselves on who they wish to have as their leaders.

 

Taking advantage of these elections, the first in forty years, the people of Congo turned up in large numbers to choose their leaders, hoping for peace, national independence, national unity and reconciliation, democracy, human rights and development.

 

The SAOM notes with great appreciation the calm manner in which the ordinary Congolese have welcomed the provisional results. The SAOM believes that the ordinary people of the DRC are looking forward to the presidential runoff and provincial elections scheduled for 29 October 2006.

 

The SAOM noted with regret the violent clashes that erupted in the capital of the DRC, Kinshasa following the release of the provisional election results. The Mission deeply regrets the loss of life as result of the clashes. The Mission further calls on all opposing forces to honour their undertaking as per their agreement.

 

The SAOM urges the candidates in the presidential runoff to demonstrate a high sense of responsibility, put an end to the escalation of hostilities in the country and create conditions conducive for the successful conclusion of the political transition. In this regard, the candidates to the presidential runoff would need to agree to a code of conduct.

 

The SAOM is confident that the Congolese political leadership will build on the successful first round of the presidential and legislative elections and take the country forward to lasting peace, stability and economic development.

 

The SAOM further calls on the international community to continue to support the people of Congo as they prepare for the second round of the presidential and provincial elections.

 

5.†††††††† RECOMMENDATIONS

 

5.1††††††† Non payment of CEI staff

 

The SAOM noted the complaints by some CEI staff members who alleged that they had not been paid their wages for the December 2005 Constitutional Referendum.

 

The Mission noted that despite these complaints CEI officials were still prepared to make their services available for the general good of the country. Their level of professionalism and dedication was remarkable.

 

In this regard, the SAOM recommends that CEI must be encouraged to ensure early payment of the wages of its staff members throughout the country. The SAOM notes that if this is not done on time, it has a potential to negatively affect future elections including the second of the presidential and provincial elections.

 

5.2††††††† Civic and voter education

 

The SAOM noted that CEI had managed to conduct civic and voter education resulting in an informed electorate. Voter education is a critical part of a democratic process as it provides public confidence, awareness and legitimacy of the electoral process.

 

In view of the upcoming presidential run-off and the provincial elections, the SAOM recommends that CEI should continue with its civic and voter education. In this regard, the SAOM urges international community to continue to support CEI technically and financially. The SAOM commends all those organisations both national and international which supported the CEI in the run up to the December 2005 Constitutional Referendum and the July 2006 presidential and legislative elections.

 

5.3††††††† Women representation

 

The SAOM noted that equal representation of men and women, despite its stipulation in the countryís constitution, was not adhered to by the political parties in their nomination of candidates. There were, for example, only four female presidential candidates out of a total of 33 candidates. Article 14 of the Constitution stipulates that the public authorities shall ensure elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. This Article goes on to say that women have the right to equitable representation within the national, provincial and local institutions.

 

In addition, Article 13 of the Electoral Law stipulates that party lists should ensure parity representation between men and women.

 

The SAOM recommends that in future elections political parties need to ensure that this constitutional requirement is respected. This is not only constitutional requirement in the DRC, as it has become a regional, continental and international requirement. Nowadays, women advancement is promoted in each and every institution.

 

5.4††††††† Voterís Roll

 

The SAOM noted that a small number of voters probably lost their voting cards or their names did not appear in the voterís roll. The CEI tried hard to assist these voters before and during the Election Day.

 

The SAOM recommends that CEI should embark on a nation-wide campaign to encourage voters who may have lost their voting cards to come forward to receive duplicate cards.

 

5.5††††††† International Community

 

The SAOM commends the role the international community continues to play in the DRC peace process. True to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations through MONUC has played a critical role in the DRC.

 

The SAOM recommends that MONUC should continue to assist the people of the DRC in their search for lasting peace, stability and reconstruction.†††