As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) prepares for upcoming presidential and legislative elections, the first hints of fraud are already becoming apparent in the country’s south-eastern Katanga province, where children barely older than 12 have been given voter cards.
With months to go before the country’s November 28 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already launched a campaign to register voters, and politicians in Katanga, best known for its resource-rich mines, have been scrambling to mobilise supporters to register to vote.
These photos were sent in by a source in DR Congo, who prefers to remain anonymous due to security reasons. While he is not the actual photographer, the source has been able to confirm that the images were taken in Manono, a town in northern Katanga. According to the source, voter cards were handed out to minors in the region on the orders of Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza, president of the provincial assembly and a supporter of the country’s President Joseph Kabila, as he passed through the town on a visit. While FRANCE 24 could not contact the photographer who took these images, one of our Observers in Katanga confirmed that Congolese minors have been registered to vote (read our Observer’s account below).
The infraction, however, has not been overlooked. Vital Kamerhe, president of the opposition political party One for the Congolese Nation, has publically denounced the ploy, while Jacques Djoli, vice president of the INEC, confirmed June 17 on Radio Okapi that fraudulent registrations had taken place in centre number 12010 in Manono, where the child brandishing the card in the photo acquired his. Contacted by FRANCE 24, an official of the Katanga branch of the INEC said the photos were being investigated.

"Kids in my village obtained cards in exchange for money"

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.