A 94-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) Observation Electoral Mission (SOEM) has been launched in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of the 2018 presidential, legislative and provincial elections to be held in the next ten days.
According to the statement released to the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Public Relations Unit in Lusaka today, 73 out of the 94 members are field observers supported by a core team of 18 technical staff from the SADC secretariat while three are SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) members.
Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, Ernest Sakala, who represented President Edgar Lungu, says the team will assess the conduct of the elections against a set of central principles stipulated in the revised SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
President Lungu is the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Justice Sakala said the principles are the full participation of the citizens in the political process, freedom of association, assembly and expression, equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media, civic and voter education, acceptance and respect for the official election results by political parties and settlement of electoral disputes as provided for in the law.
He said the mission was preceded by the deployment of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council to DRC in July and November, 2018.
Mr Sakala explained that the advisory council was to inform the ministerial committee of the organ on appropriate action to be taken in support of the electoral process.
He said after interaction with various Congolese stakeholders, a number of concerns were raised such as the introduction and use of the electronic voting machine, the urgent need to remove from the voters’ roll approximately six million voters who were registered without biometrical data and the insufficient voter education intervention as a result of limited financial resources.
Other concerns were the outbreak of Ebola virus in Ituri and Nort Kivu provinces and the presence of armed insurgents in the eastern part of the country, particularly in Beni.
Justice Sakala said the electoral advisory council also acknowledged the United Nations Security Council’s resolution of October 30, 2018, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities by all armed groups operating in these areas.
He said SADC has since deployed troops to Eastern DRC under the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), which operates under the UN Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Congo, with the specific aim of neutralizing the negative forces.
Justice Sakala has since appealed to all stakeholders to ensure that elections are managed in a peaceful, transparent and credible manner and encouraged all eligible voters to brave the weather and turn out in large numbers.
He said the mission is looking forward to an electoral process that adheres to democratic values and principles.
And SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Tax has called upon all Congolese to use the opportunity to remain calm, united and allow the democratic dispensation to take its course.
The observers are drawn from Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The DRC general elections are scheduled to be held on December 23, 2018.