The voters of the Democratic Republic of Congo should have gone to the polls last November to choose their new head of state.
Instead, presidential and parliamentary elections were not organized, and shortly afterward, on December 19, President Joseph Kabila’s second and, according to the constitution, final term expired.
Under a political deal struck on New Year’s Eve between Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition, the delayed polls are supposed to take place in late 2017. In the meantime, the president has remained in office.
On Sunday, the electoral commission, known as CENI, launched voter enrollment in Kinshasa, the Congo’s capital of about 12 million people, and Kabila himself was the first to register. The process of registering the city’s voters is expected to take about three months.
On Monday, Providence Nsongo was at a registration center at a high school in the district of Barumbu.
Nsongo said he had come to do his civic duty by enrolling so that he could take action against Congo’s political and administrative authorities. He said that this is the right of all Congolese people.
The process appeared to be far from straightforward. At three centers visited by VOA there were many more people queuing to register than the staff was capable of processing. At one center, those waiting claimed that the police guarding the building were demanding 1,000 Congolese francs, about 70 cents, to allow them to register.
Voters losing hope
Kabila is deeply unpopular in Kinshasa, which in 2006 and 2011 voted overwhelmingly in favor of his opponent.
Most people do not believe the election will happen this year and expect further delays.
Kofi Luakaviny told VOA that he hopes the elections take place in 2018, because Kabila does not want to leave power. He said the president is in the process of monopolizing the Congo and believes himself to be a god in the country.
Others, such as Jean Ely Pakala, have lost hope in the power of elections to bring about change.
Pakala said he had come to get his voter card simply as means of identification. He said that after 2006 and 2011, he no longer has faith in voting but hopes that security forces will harass him less frequently if he has an identification card.
Voter enrollment started in July 2016 and has been completed in about half of Congo’s 26 provinces. On May 28, Corneille Nangaa, CENI’s president, said that more than 24 million of the country’s estimated eligible voters have been registered. In the 2011 election, 32 million people were registered to vote.