By Sonia Rolley
(Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) has asked the presidency to provide aircraft urgently to help distribute voting materials, just two weeks ahead of national elections, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.
The request highlights the logistical challenges to delivering the Dec. 20 vote as scheduled across Africa’s second-largest country, given its lack of paved roads and deep insecurity in rebel-plagued eastern provinces.
In the letter dated Dec. 5, the head of the CENI said the commission needed four Antonov planes and 10 helicopters to get voting materials to hard-to-reach areas.
“This (deployment) period … unfortunately coincides with the electoral campaign, the lack of air services and the shortage of fuel,” said the letter, which was verified as authentic by a CENI official.
“Consequently, the mobility and intervention capacity of the electoral centre is very reduced,” it said, describing its needs as urgent.
Congo’s government spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment on the letter.
Some political analysts and civil society leaders have warned that the election might be postponed like in 2018, when Congo delayed the vote by one week just three days before it was set to take place.
“The government has always assisted in the logistical deployment, security and financing of all electoral cycles. Elections will take place within the deadline,” President Felix Tshisekedi’s spokesperson Tina Salama said on X on Friday.
A CENI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the need for additional air support was due to delays obtaining printed election materials and the rainy season making some roads impassable.
Voters in the mineral-rich Central African country are mulling whether to back Tshisekedi or one of his two dozen challengers. They say his first term failed to address the deep inequalities that have left 26 million people dependent on humanitarian aid.
(Reporting by Sonia Rolley; Additional reporting by Ange Kasongo, Crispin Kyala and Yassin Kombi; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alessandra Prentice)