Posted with permission from AFP
The United States is urging the Democratic Republic of Congo to use paper ballots in its December elections to maintain credibility AFP/File / JOHN WESSELS

The United States urged the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to scrap plans to use electronic voting for the first time in elections this year, saying it risked undermining the credibility of the historic polls.

After much delay, the DR Congo will hold elections on December 23 that are expected to pave the way to the first peaceful transfer of power in the vast mineral-rich country, ending President Joseph Kabila's 17-year-rule.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told a Security Council informal meeting that the election commission's plan to use electronic voting for the first time posed "an enormous risk."

"These elections must be held by paper ballot so there is no question by the Congolese people about the result," said Haley. "The US has no appetite to support an electronic voting system."

E-ballots have never been tested in DR Congo, Haley said, adding that "employing an unfamiliar technology for the first time during a crucial election is an enormous risk".

"It has the potential to seriously undermine the credibility of elections that so many have worked hard to see have happen."

Some 46 million registered voters will go the polls on December 23 to elect a president and to fill seats in the national parliament and provincial legislatures.

Electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa said the use of "voting machines" would reduce costs and the amount of equipment to be deployed in the 90,000 voting stations.

Rejecting criticism, Nangaa said the commission, known as the CENI, expected support from its partners -- "not resistance and negative actions towards our efforts."

Human Rights Watch's Central African director Ida Sawyer told the council that the new electronic voting machines "create new opportunities for fraud and the way votes are tallied."

"Many Congolese will need to be shown how to use the machines, preventing them from casting a secret ballot," said Sawyer.

The Security Council is stepping up its focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo as it heads toward the December polls, with concerns over a possible outbreak of violence.

Kabila, 46, has not yet clearly stated whether he will step aside in the elections.