How Goma saw the election

DR Congo citizens, tell Al Jazeera of how election proceedings in their city differed from the rest of the country.

Residents in Goma tell Al Jazeera about their voting experiences [Azad Essa]

Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo – Confusion, corruption and chaos. This is how most have described Monday’s elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following reports of clashes, rigging and stolen ballots in various parts of the country.

But in Goma, the capital of the volatile North Kivu province, the story seems to be a little different.

Residents admit the election process was deeply flawed and disorganised. Many polling stations failed to receive papers and equipment in time. But very few claim Monday’s poll in the city involved incidents of mass fraud and corruption.

As cries of corruption reach a crescendo and international observers plead for calm, it seems a little peculiar that a city in the east, flagged as one of the most unstable cities of the lot, would appear so together.

Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa spoke to a selection of residents from Goma on their take of the complex elections. This is their account of how election proceedings in their city.

Sephan Dunia, 37 (self-employed)

I have come back here to the polling station to take a look at the results.

I cannot be sure if there was cheating but people did say there would be cheating during this election.

I was pleased with how the elections took place. It was disappointing to see how long the process took but I think  overall, I am happy with the outcome of the process.

It is difficult for me to speak about corruption because I didn’t see any incidents for myself.

The commission worked here, in this polling station, in a transparent manner. But let’s face it, we are just the common people of Congo; whatever the result, we will just have to accept it.

Muhindo Mzangi (politician)

I cannot say there were incidents of fraud, though it was extremely disorganised from the process down to reading the print on the paper.

The elections of 2006 were better organised. It is disappointing that five years later, these elections were run so poorly.

We had problems in the city but in the rural areas, I wonder if we can say that we actually had an election.

People in Goma will respect the elections. I understand that people want change, but because results show [Vital] Kamerhe winning Goma, they might be disappointed when they realise he hasn’t performed the same throughout the country.

It’s not hard to think that everything is fraudulent in a place like this. It is a matter of expectation.

People were sure that there was going to be an issue. People here suffer a type of psychosis because the conditions make it so.

For instance, before the elections on Monday, people were saying the ink of the pens at polling stations could be removed from ballot sheets and that people should bring their own pens so ballots cannot be manipulated. This kind of thing naturally leads to paranoia and fighting.

Goma has escaped such allegations because Kamerhe is doing well and that was expected, so people are less suspicious.

Secenge Sotcho Christen, 38 (gardener)

People who have changed their mind about supporting [Joseph] Kabila and decided to vote for another party, have probably done so for a good reason. I don’t blame them.

But I, like so many of his supporters, think he was on the right track and needs more time to do what he needs to do for the DRC. This is why I will keep on supporting him.

More than anything else, I think it is important that all of us work for this country, and not resort to fighting because of disagreements.

We have to work as citizens of this country, to promote peace in this country. If someone wins or loses, we should be able to maintain unity.

People are free to offer their point of view, and I am not afraid to say that I support Kabila. Even Kamerhe himself, offered reasons for why he left Kabila’s government, and he remains a free man, to give his point of view and opinion. Everyone is free to offer their opinion in this country.

I was not involved in the process, but I heard on the radio that there had been some corruption, but personally, I didn’t see what happened inside offices.

If there was an office that did experience corruption and it is widely known, they ought to be arrested. For me, these elections have taken place and I am here to see how my candidate has fared so far so I have some idea of what the overall result might be for me.

Annie Sikyala Nyamvuru, 25 (student)

I don’t think people can refute the results. Of course, they know what they saw but I didn’t see any cheating.

I think the results will demonstrate these elections were run in a transparent way.

Of course, problems and unrest in other towns and cities across the DRC will affect Goma, North Kivu and the whole country.

The president who will be elected will be proclaimed as the president of the whole country, not just president of Katanga or any other one region.

The president needs to rule the country and needs to be accepted by all citizens.

I voted for President Kabila because I remember where this country came from when I consider the stage it is at today. Kabila inherited a country, which was completely destroyed and he has done thing slowly … but things cannot be built overnight.

It is a process and people need to remember that.  I am confident Kabila can turn this country in the right direction. There have been developments and improvements. It has not been enough yet, but still.

Many women work in the fields and many remember how they were unable to work in the fields during the war. Kabila changed that.

Today, we can go to the fields to cultivate or find food because of him. Armed militias used to take our children as child soldiers and today we are not losing our children to militia. We associate Kabila with these improvements. We have to give him a chance.

Others have begun to support Kamerhe because they found him charming and he was able to say all the things that they needed to hear. Maybe it is because he is from the region. I am not sure if this is the way to choose a candidate. People should support leaders for the well being of the country.

Rubens Hikindo, 53 (lawyer and politician)

I think it’s interesting that in 2006, our UDPS (of which presidential candidate Etienne Tshesekedi is president) denounced elections for the level of fraud, but [Vital] Kamerhe was at that point part of the majority and he didn’t say anything.

Now he knows he is going to lose, and he decides to raise the alarm.

In Goma, we were given some ballots two or three days before the election itself. In a normal country, this would not be possible. We took it to the UN and the police and CENI.

They even signed a document to say they received it. They say they found it on the street, and it is not my business how they got the ballot; the fact is that they had it.

The disorganisation of the elections had a purpose; it was meant to facilitate cheating. But people were vigilant, and so they picked up on it.  I would not say that it is paranoia; instead, it is the reality.

This fraud was real in other provinces and they probably wanted to cheat here as well, but they didn’t manage to do so. There could have been fraud, but it seems that enough was done to discourage it in Goma itself.

Outside Goma, there were many irregularities. For example, In Masisi, a commander of an army found that President Kabila was not elected at a polling station and he went on to burn the ballots.

Our people have matured and have developed new idea for how they want to lead their life, and they feel that they are able to take things in their hands and give power to whomever they want. But even with the attempts to cheat, Kabila will not win, because he will lose the elections in the east which brought him to power in 2006. But if he does win, we will force him to leave by all means.

All photos taken by Azad Essa – for live updates from DR Congo, follow him on twitter: @AzadEssa

Source : Al Jazeera

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