Phillipe K. is an engineer in DR Congo’s southern city Lubumbashi.
I returned home to my town, Kipushi, 30 kms outside of Lubumbashi, during the registration phase in the month of May. My little brother told me that several of his friends had managed to get voting cards, so I asked to see them. I've known these children since they were babies. I know very well that they are 15 or 16 years old at most, which is to say that they weren’t born before 1995. Yet they proudly showed me their voting cards, on which was inscribed ‘1993’ or ‘1992’ in the place of their date of birth.
They told me they had paid the INEC officials who distributed the cards. In general, people come with an identity card to prove their age, but, apparently, a little cash was sufficient to have the date of birth modified. I spoke to a member of INEC, who told me that he had not been paid by the [electoral] commission and that many made a living off of deals like this.
"It’s often families who push them to register to tip the balance in favour of this or that candidate"
Certain children may have decided themselves to play grownup as a way to show off to their friends. But in most cases, it is the families who push them to register to vote in an effort to tip the balance in favour of their preferred presidential candidate. Getting the card is the most difficult part, because on voting day, you can be sure no one is going to ask their age, even if the look like they’re 12 years old.
Some people accuse the president of Katanga’s provincial assembly, Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza, of being behind the registration of minors in the Manono region. I think that it’s completely possible, because the last time he came through here it was to encourage people to register to vote. Like [President] Joseph Kabila, he’s a part of the Luda people who live in the region. Kyungu is therefore very influential in the Manono zone and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was capable of this type of scam.
“Opposition strongholds will certainly not be saved by this type of fraud”
I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of fraud is also taking place in strongholds of opposition candidates. I think that the candidates aren’t the only ones responsible: their militant supporters don’t always need to be ordered into committing zealous excesses.
The upcoming elections are going to be very problematic. During meetings, certain candidates have already brandished the threat of an Ivorian-like scenario [following last year’s disputed presidential elections, Ivory Coast was consumed for months by a deadly power struggle] if their party does not win. And the worst is that the militants applaud them”.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.