Cablegate: Drc Elections: An Inside Look at Kinshasa's

DE RUEHKI #1264/01 2230755
P 110755Z AUG 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Following the enormous logistical challenge
of organizing the DRC's July 30 presidential and legislative
elections comes an equally daunting task: the collection,
compilation and verification of tens of millions of ballots
from some 50,000 polling stations nationwide. In Kinshasa,
the local compilation center -- which handles ballots from
more than 8,500 individual polling sites -- was a scene of
chaos and confusion in the days immediately following the
election, with dazed Electoral Commission workers unable to
process the truckloads of election materials arriving by the
hour. The initial haphazard storage of ballots, tally sheets
and other paperwork raised serious concerns among some
international observer missions about the transparency and
security of the vote-counting process. Nonetheless, poll
workers in Kinshasa have since established a greater sense of
order at the capital's compilation center, and are well on
their way to meeting the August 20 deadline for announcing
national provisional results for the presidential contest.
End summary.

2. (U) PolOff visited Kinshasa's local ballot compilation
center twice in the week following the July 30 election.
Members of the International Committee to Accompany the
Transition (CIAT) also visited the compilation center August
10. In two rented warehouses that still contain the remains
of an old printing press, the Independent Electoral
Commission (CEI) is storing and verifying voting material
from more than 8,500 polling sites throughout the city. On
the site itself, there are four compilation centers -- one
for each of Kinshasa's four voting districts -- with two in
each building, operating 24 hours a day, involving roughly
900 personnel. (Note: The Kinshasa center originally closed
each day around 5pm, but officials extended working hours so
as to speed up the compilation process. End note.) Throughout
the rest of the DRC, another 58 local compilation centers are
collecting material from the remaining 41,000 polling


3. (U) The first visit on August 1 revealed a serious lack of
preparation, organization and security at the center. The
site itself was well-guarded, with Congolese police posted at
the main entrance checking credentials for all those wanting
to enter. (Note: Only officially accredited election
observers, political party witnesses, journalists and
election workers have authorization to enter compilation
centers. End note.) Inside the compound was a fire engine
(the reliability of which was uncertain), more police guards,
and an armored personnel carrier with a platoon of MONUC
peacekeepers standing watch.

4. (U) The rest of the compound, however, was a scene of
chaos and confusion. Outside one building, envelopes
containing the records of voting operations and tally sheets
were strewn across the ground as CEI workers tried to put
them in piles according to neighborhood or voting center.
Nearby, stacks of marked and unmarked ballots (presidential
and legislative) were spilling out of cardboard boxes and
left unattended in the open air. In a breezeway between two
out-buildings, election workers had filled the entire 50-yard
passage more than six feet high with used ballot boxes,
packages of marked and unmarked ballots, and other
supplemental election materials. Throughout the site, used
ballot boxes were sealed and stuffed full of (presumably)
marked ballots for safeguarding, as poll workers at the
voting sites themselves apparently had no other means of
securely transporting ballots to the compilation center. CEI
workers were also witnessed haphazardly throwing all kinds of
election material -- mostly used and unused ballots -- into a
room that was already piled up to the ceiling. On another
side of the compound, pickup trucks arrived regularly to drop
off more loads of material from yet more voting sites. CEI
workers were busy throughout the compound trying to sort
through tally sheets, ballots and other documents -- some of
which were torn or damaged from sitting out in the open --
and deliver them to the appropriate destination or storage
room. At the Kinshasa compilation center, though, "storage"
meant little more than randomly tossing armloads of election
material into a room. (Note: The August 2 fire that
reportedly destroyed ballots and other material at a Kinshasa
center, reftel, occurred at a local liaison office in the
N'djili neighborhood of the city, not at the compilation

KINSHASA 00001264 002 OF 003

center. End note.)


5. (U) It should be noted, however, that the ballots
themselves do not actually have to be recounted at the
compilation centers. At each of the 50,000 polling sites,
poll workers were required to fill out two documents in
quadruplicate at the end of vote counting: a record of the
"minutes" detailing that site's voting operations, plus a
tally sheet indicating the number of votes for each
candidate. The minutes contain notes on the number of ballots
delivered, those used and unused, as well as how many were
declared void (for being improperly marked). The minutes also
record as well any disagreements or challenges political
party witnesses or observers had with the voting or counting
process. These two documents are CEI officials at the
compilation centers use to verify election results. Workers
at the compilation centers are required only to retabulate
the figures from the tally sheets to ensure the correct
calculations were made. If the original poll workers made an
error in adding up the votes, compilation center officials
attach a new tally sheet to the original with the correct
numbers. In such cases, the ballots themselves are not
recounted. The only case in which the ballots would manually
be recounted is if the minutes of the vote-counting process
indicate some discrepancy with the final vote tally.

6. (U) Inside the compilation centers, where the actual
verification and tabulation process takes place, operations
were somewhat more orderly. The envelopes containing tally
sheets were scattered across the floor, as several poll
workers in each centers walked through the piles to sort them
by voting district for later counting. Most CEI officials
were occupied with just trying to manage the large volume of
material arriving by the hour. Some data entry specialists --
whose job is to input the actual vote counts into the central
computer and send them to CEI headquarters electronically --
were either sitting around with nothing to do or absent from
their posts. While no one person at each compilation center
appeared to be in overall command, workers were generally
going about their business with an air of determination and


7. (U) By the time of PolOff's second visit on August 4, the
Kinshasa compilation centers had improved their operations
markedly. While several stacks of voting material remained
outside, everything was under protective cover and generally
arranged neatly. Storage rooms -- including the
aforementioned passageway between two buildings -- were,
however, still filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of
material. Gone, though, were the endless piles of ballots and
boxes that had littered the compound three days earlier.
Police forces and MONUC peacekeepers were still on guard, as
was the sole fire truck. In response to the original problems
at the center, CEI President Abbe Apollinaire Malu Malu added
more staff to assist in the counting process. International
election observers said as well they have noticed "huge
improvements" made by the CEI since the initial week of

8. (U) CEI workers at the compilation center were by August 4
fully engaged in the work at hand. All four centers were full
of officials sorting tally sheets and other documents,
verifying and tabulating results, inputting data into the
computers, and preparing duplicate copies of all materials
for delivery to the Supreme Court (which will be the final
arbiter of presidential and legislative election disputes)
and CEI headquarters. In addition, the chief of each
compilation center was present and overseeing operations, and
took time to answer questions from various observers about
the compilation process. All centers have election observers
and party candidate representatives watching the operations.
The centers themselves were generally well-lit and
air-conditioned, with enough space for all officials to work
freely and comfortably. The envelopes containing minutes and
tally sheets were neatly stacked and organized by voting
center on shelves throughout the room. By the time of the
CIAT visit August 10, operations were proceeding smoothly in

KINSHASA 00001264 003 OF 003

all four compilation centers. The head of one center did
complain that his internet connection had been sporadic over
the past few days, which had led to delays in transmitting
results to the CEI. Electoral Commission officials, though,
said they had not encountered any other major logistical
difficulties apart from dealing with the overwhelming influx
of materials arriving immediately after July 30.


9. (SBU) The initial difficulties at the Kinshasa compilation
center can be traced to two primary factors. The first is the
sheer number of ballots, tally sheets and other material that
were delivered to this one location. As reported previously,
the legislative ballots alone for districts in Kinshasa were
two feet by three feet in size, and six pages long. Adding
these ballots to the presidential ballots from more than
8,500 polling stations created a literal tsunami of paper
descending on election workers in Kinshasa. At compilation
centers in the rest of the country, such problems have not
arisen because the amount of material to be processed is
nowhere near as large as in Kinshasa. Secondly, the CEI did a
poor job communicating to its officials in Kinshasa exactly
how to deliver voting material to the compilation center.
Consequently, some polling sites sent their ballots to a
local liaison offices, while others sent theirs directly to
the compilation center. Moreover, as Malu Malu has conceded,
the Electoral Commission did not have enough vehicles to
collect material from throughout the city, thereby delaying
delivery or forcing election workers to use other (less
secure) means of transport. Overall, CEI officials have
admitted the Commission's plans -- particularly in Kinshasa
-- for collecting material after the vote were not
well-developed or executed.


10. (U) These deficiencies in the vote compilation process --
especially on questions regarding the chain of custody --
have worried many international observation missions. Carter
Center and European Union officials in particular have said
they are satisfied with the way the CEI has responded to
initial problems with ballot security, storage and counting
operations, but still expressed concerns about the overall
integrity of the process. Both missions, though, have kept
election observers in the DRC and are continuing to monitor
operations both in Kinshasa and the rest of the DRC. At the
Kinshasa compilation center, Congolese observers and
political party witnesses have been present to note any
potential irregularities. Compilation center officials told
the CIAT August 10 that between 75-80 percent of the Kinshasa
ballots had been collected and verified at the four centers.
They expected to complete the presidential race compilation
by the end of the weekend, and would then start on the
National Assembly results.


11. (SBU) Comment: The Kinshasa compilation center is more
the exception than the rule in the DRC. Elsewhere in the
country, compilation centers have not experienced similar
scenes of general disorder. Given the complexity and enormity
of Kinshasa's ballots and polling stations, the collection,
storage and verification of material was bound to be
difficult at best. Certainly the initial days of operations
at the Kinshasa center did not give observers the sense that
the electoral process at this critical period was well
managed. CEI officials have brought matters under control and
are still on target to meet the Commission's timeline of an
August 20 announcement for provisional presidential results.
As during the vote itself, CEI officials proved resilient and
innovative in the face of logistical difficulties, finding
inventive ways to meet the required demands. While not
perfect, the Congolese system is working and slowly producing
results. In addition, despite the disarray and confusion,
there still do not appear to be any concerted efforts by
election workers -- or others -- to manipulate the vote. End

© Scoop Media

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