Almost 8,000 voting machines have been destroyed in a fire in the Congolese capital, just weeks ahead of presidential elections, the electoral commission said Thursday.
Interior Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi told dpa at the scene that the fire had been started on purpose by ‘enemies of democracy’ although he did not give further details.
The new machines, which were produced in South Korean, have been a point of contention for the opposition, who say they could allow the ruling party to rig the December 23 vote.
As well as the machines, the fire incinerated several polling booths and transport vehicles in the electoral commission warehouse where they were stored, the body said in a statement.
More than 40 million Congolese are eligible to vote in the polls, which have been delayed for two years by President Joseph Kabila.
‘The fire certainly calls into question the government's assurances that voting will go ahead as planned,’ said Indigo Ellis, Africa analyst for Verisk Maplecroft, adding that it could be seen as an attempt to discredit the opposition or simply to again delay the vote.
Ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is pitted against two main opposition candidates, Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu.
The fire is not the first incident in the run-up to the vote, with the United Nations earlier this week expressing ‘serious concern’ at reports of soldiers violently dispersing opposition rallies.
A rights group says at least two people were killed in the melee.
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