More than 3,100 Congolese in Belgium registered to vote in DRC elections
For the first time in the country's democratic history, Congolese voters living in five foreign countries - including Belgium - have been invited to vote in the legislative elections being held in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 20 December.
Although Congolese living abroad will finally be able to vote outside the borders of the DRC, the vote will only take place in five countries selected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni) and validated by the Constitutional Court: Belgium, France, the US, Canada and South Africa.
Anyone wishing to participate in the elections had to register at the countries' embassies between 25 January and 20 March. According to the Immigration Service, 3,105 Congolese people living in Belgium were registered with Céni out of a population of around 20,000.
A total of 13,290 Congolese living abroad registered, less than 0.03 per cent of the electorate. They will be asked to elect their president and members of the National Assembly for the next five years. Provincial assemblies will also be renewed, while local councils will be elected for the first time since independence on 30 June 1960.
Céni says the results will be announced in the days after the polls close. However, this promise was not kept in previous elections, raising doubts about the regularity of the electoral process.
The quadripartite election is taking place in a tense political environment, both internally and with the DRC's neighbours, and at a time of increasing violence in the east of the country.
Although armed groups have been waging a series of violent conflicts in eastern Congo for three decades, the fighting has become much more intense since late 2021 with the return to the forefront of the March 23 Movement (M23), a rebel military group comprised of ethnic Tutsis.
Despite promises of reconciliation and resolving ongoing conflicts, the outgoing president, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, faced numerous conflicts that continue to undermine the country. In the east, several areas are at risk of being unable to hold the quadripartite elections.
© PHOTO PATRICK MEINHARDT / AFP