Africa: New Investigative Report - Security Vulnerabilities in Electronic Voting Technology Underscore Lack of Transparency in DR Congo's Electoral Process

press release

As President Kabila weighs running for an illegal third term, his regime's electoral commission seeks purchase of 105,000 electronic voting machines with potentially severe security and privacy vulnerabilities. Voting machines made by same South Korean firm were rejected by Argentina

Washington, D.C. - A new investigative report published today by The Sentry reveals potential vulnerabilities in the electronic voting technology currently being prototyped for use in the Democratic Republic of Congo ("Congo"), including potential threats to ballot secrecy as well as the risk of results manipulation. Congo's elections are scheduled to be held in December this year.

The report reveals that Miru Systems Co, the South Korean firm currently poised to sell Congo's electoral commission (CENI) an estimated 105,000 electronic voting machines, may have initially attempted to sell its technology to the Argentinian government, but was unsuccessful due in part to these security vulnerabilities. Based on technical documents obtained by The Sentry, similarities between machines demonstrated in Argentina and prototype machines currently being rolled out in Congo suggest they may even be repackaged versions of the same machines.

Sasha Lezhnev, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: The Congolese government is testing the will of the international community and Congolese civil society on electoral credibility by moving ahead with highly controversial electronic voting technology that poses significant potential security risks. Our investigation shows that civil society and opposition groups have good reason to be highly skeptical of the machines. The international community dissuade Kabila to ensure a credible electoral process by targeting his financial advisers and their companies with sanctions. The time to act is quickly closing."

The Sentry's report comes as President Joseph Kabila is calculating whether to put his name on the ballot, which would be a violation of Congo's constitution. Billboards, posters, and videos seemingly presenting Kabila as a candidate have already appeared across Congo. Kabila continues to resist calls to announce that he will not run for re-election. Kabila's candidacy would also break commitments he has made to Congolese civil society and opposition groups, including the December 31, 2016 accord brokered by the Catholic Bishops Conference in Congo (CENCO).

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: "In order to influence Kabila's calculations on whether he runs again or not, the US and EU should impose escalating financial pressures on Kabila and his commercial collaborators in the form of network sanctions and anti-money laundering measures. A clear message needs to be sent that Kabila's candidacy is not acceptable to the Congolese people, to the region, and to the broader international community which supports democracy, peace, and human rights."

The new information revealed in The Sentry's report underscores the serious risks this electronic voting technology poses to the credibility of Congo's electoral process, and the need for greater transparency in the CENI's activities overall.

The report recommends:

The United States and the European Union should:

Immediately exert financial pressure to help prevent Kabila from running for re-election and ensure a credible democratic transition of power, including sanctions designations and anti-money laundering measures against senior members of his inner circle and their corporate networks. This pressure should increase if the Kabila government fails to take meaningful steps to hold a credible, peaceful democratic transition of power.

Key benchmarks should include: abandoning the use of electronic voting technology in favor of paper ballots, ensuring that civil society and opposition groups can peacefully demonstrate and exercise their rights to freedom of assembly, dropping politically motivated charges against opposition and civil society leaders, releasing political prisoners, allowing all candidates to register and public confirmation that Kabila will not stand for re-election.

Ensure enforcement of existing sanctions and take steps to monitor and guard against evasion by already-sanctioned individuals.

The United States, African Union, Southern African Development Community and European Union should:

Coordinate public messaging on the Kabila government's failure or success to meet the benchmarks outlined above, preferably via joint statements.

The donor community should:

Increase assistance to civil society efforts to observe the electoral process. Increase and sustain assistance to democracy and governance strengthening initiatives.

Click here to read the full report | En français

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, +1 310-717-0606, gh@enoughproject.org.

About THE SENTRY

The Sentry is composed of financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa's deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry's partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world's largest banks.

 

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