The United Nations and the United States of America have warned the Democratic Republic of Congo from using an electronic voting system for the presidential elections that will hopefully happen in the country later in 2018. The warning was issued by Nikki Haley, the USA's ambassador to the UN, during a recently held UN Security Council meeting.
The irony of the warning from the USA comes at a time when there are reports of confirmed interference and hacking of USA's electronic voting systems during the recent presidential elections allegedly by Russian operatives. Haley stated that it wouldn't be advisable for the DRC to use electronic voting because it would be an unfamiliar technology that is being used in the country for the first time during a critical election and thus would pose an enormous risk.
“These elections must be held by paper ballots so there is no question by the Congolese people about the results. The U.S. has no appetite to support an electronic voting system,” said Haley.
Presidential elections were supposed to be held in the DRC in November 2017 as President Joseph Kabila's term officially ended on 19 December 2016. This did not happen and Kabila, at the time, announced that elections would be postponed to April 2018. On the eve of his term ending, various civic organizations in the country announced they would be taking to the streets to protest, as a result, the DRC's government issued a directive to telecommunications companies in the country to block social media starting 18 December 2016 in order to, according to them, prevent unrest as president Joseph Kabila's mandate comes to an end.
This proved not to be the only time that this would happen. Earlier in 2018 civic organizations again stated that they will be protesting and asking Kabila to vacate his position, thus the government blocked the Internet in the DRC starting 21 January 2018.
It is not only the USA that raised concerns around the DRC using electronic voting, several more countries also raised concerns about the possible risks surrounding electronic voting. However, it was the USA that seemed to be more determined during the Security Council meeting, stating, through Haley, that it had no appetite for electronic voting in the DRC. The consensus was that the elections should be held by paper ballots to avoid any doubts of manipulation.
"“these machines still need to be tested, configured, deployed and used in a tense mistrustful context. On a single day it is proposed that roughly 106,000 machines must work flawlessly across 90,000 polling stations,” he said. “Securing these machines and the data they transmit from cyber attacks will be critical and challenging,” said Rushdi Nackerdien, Africa director for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Recently, Somaliland became the first country in the world to use iris recognition in a presidential election, making it the most advanced voting register in the world.