Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee and for taking an interest in the situation in my country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC.
I am here to tell you about the rather alarming situation in my country. This is an election year, but the decision to hold an election came only in the wake of considerable international pressure. We want to thank you, because that pressure has gotten us here. In fact, pursuant to our constitution, the elections should have been held in 2016. They weren't, however, because of one person, Joseph Kabila, who is desperately trying to cling to power. He absolutely refuses to give up power and thus help to usher in a democratic changeover, for the first time in my country's history. My country has known only coups d'état and forcible takeovers.
As I said, the current electoral process is thanks to the pressure that was brought to bear by the international community, led by the United States. After visiting Kinshasa, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN was able to secure an electoral calendar from the Congolese electoral commission, which organizes the country's elections. The calendar is the road map leading to the end-of-year elections, to be held on December 23, 2018, but the process is plagued by numerous irregularities.
The first irregularity is what is known as the voting machine. It is an electronic voting system that those in power decided to introduce in the electoral process, against the country's election laws, which prohibit electronic voting. Section 237 of our election act prohibits the use of voting machines. The machines were made by a South Korean firm, which the South Korean government formally denounced and prohibited from supplying the machines to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The firm circumvented its country's rule by sending the manufacturing licence to Argentina, where the machines will likely be made before being sent to the DRC. Our first goal, then, is to prevent the use of these voting machines, which the Congolese people have renamed “cheating machines”.
The second irregularity concerns the electoral roll. As we speak, a team of experts from the International Organisation of La Francophonie, or IOF, is in Kinshasa and has uncovered a serious problem with the electoral roll: more than eight million voters were fraudulently included. In other words, they are fake voters; neither their photo nor their biometric information appears on the electoral roll. The current actions of the regime in the DRC quickly bring to mind the events of the 2011 elections, including the creation of a fake database and fake polling stations, serving to offset the real results in order to get Joseph Kabila elected.
Third, we are worried about the constitutional court, the country's highest judicial authority responsible for interpreting the constitution. Mr. Kabila has his eye on a third presidential term, in violation of the constitution. The constitutional court has been completely manipulated and reconfigured to Joseph Kabila's liking. The current court is made up solely of his friends; the new judges include a former adviser to Mr. Kabila and one of his lawyers.
When Mr. Kabila declares his candidacy in July, it will be rejected by the electoral commission, but swiftly rubber-stamped by the constitutional court, which, as I said, is made up of his cronies. That gives you a general idea of the alarming situation my country is facing. At the same time, we also have security problems. Kasaï, in the middle of the country, is dealing with a serious humanitarian crisis, which the international community has tried to help with. However, the Congolese government has refused assistance from the international community, leaving hundreds of thousands of men, women, and especially children to die in the forested region.
A crisis is also raging in Ituri. The claim is that the fighting involves two communities, but the reality is that those in power are exacerbating the tensions there. Their goal is clearly to create as many hotbeds of tension around the country as possible to make it impossible to hold elections as scheduled.
Finally, the country is experiencing a resurgence of the fever caused by the Ebola virus, which, as misfortune would have it, is giving those in power yet another pretext not to hold elections. In that regard, as well, we have reason to believe that, because of their cynicism, those in power will have no problem invoking the disease as an excuse not to hold elections.
That is the unfortunate overview of the political situation in my country, which is also struggling with equally devastating social problems. In fact, because of the country's economic situation and terrible political climate, workers in numerous fields are on strike, including public servants, doctors, and even transportation operators.
I am happy to provide any further details you would like. I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to your questions.