By Olivier LiffranPosted on 23-06-2019Modified the 23-06-2019 at 22:27

Since the 1984 census, demographers have been conjecturing to determine the exact number of inhabitants in the DRC. A demographic blur that President Felix Tshisekedi has promised to end. In a study published last March, two researchers look back on this sea serpent that hovered over Congolese politics for more than a decade.

In his inaugural address, on 24 January, President Félix Tshisekedi promised him urbi et orbi : " We intend to urge the government to carry out a census very quickly throughout the country ". Before insisting on the importance of having " reliable demographic information (...) for planning our development across the country, province by province ".

A speech in the form of an antiphon in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the issue of the census of the population is a highly inflammable political subject. Since the 2006 presidential election, all successive Prime Ministers have promised it without seeing the end. With the key of heavy consequences on the various electoral crises, which enamelled the Congolese political life these last years.

In a highly researched study of the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, two Belgian researchers chronicled the fiasco of politics, big money and rivalries between international and national institutions. This story begins in 2003, with the signing in Sun City of the final agreement on the work of the inter-Congolese dialogue . The text, which is supposed to put an end to the terrible second Congo war, already conditions the holding of the elections to the organization of a census.

An impossible agenda

But the country is still bloodless and the priorities are elsewhere. It will take six long years before the census is authorized by Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito. Its Minister of Planning, Olivier Kamitatu, made the announcement on Radio Okapi. " We wish to have reliable data for the reconstruction of our country, " he says, saying in passing that the process will end in 2011. Cost of operations: $ 170 million (including thirty funded by the Congolese government) .

But international donors are not at the rendezvous and the agenda is quickly impossible to hold. At the same time, the World Bank, which is starting to take an active part in the project, is imposing the digitization of the census. A bad change lived Congolese side: " It was necessary to shake the old, who can barely use a computer, says a Congolese demographer quoted anonymously in the report. These men, they do not know how to install an antivirus. They do not even know how to use Word . "

Result: the site is dragging in length. And, like that of 2006, the 2011 presidential election is held without a census beforehand. Arrived at the Primature, Augustin Matata Ponyo presents a new budget and a new agenda, which sets 2014 as the census year. The deadline will be quickly illusory. Yet, the government of the man with the red tie puts the means: purchase of a hundred vehicles and signing of a $ 11 million contract with the consortium Sinfic / Quatenus Congo / Novageo. It is also expected a huge technological equipment, with the purchase of tablets, GPS, computers and servers. Las, despite the millions injected, the census is bogged down again.

"A very realistic delay"

January 2015. President Joseph Kabila, whose theoretical end of the second term approaches, addresses his compatriots during his New Year's speech: " The coming year will be marked by the organization of local elections, municipal and provincial and the start of operations census population . In keeping with the spirit of the Sun City agreement, the government is introducing a law, which makes the holding of elections a census of the population. To do this, the executive relies on an institution, the National Identification Office, which has been dormant for three years. His boss, the academic Adolphe Lumanu, proposes to carry out an administrative census in less than a year for some 500 million dollars. " A very realistic delay ," he says.

To summarize, two institutions are now competing for the census organization. One has been around for ten years, the second has just been reactivated for 2016. It does not take more to stir the suspicion of the opposition, who cries a delaying maneuver to postpone Greek timekeeper holding the presidential ballot - the power will finally pull the bill under pressure. Critics shared by the report of the two researchers: " The Onip and the electoral law must be included as part of a set of actions to delay elections or extend the mandate of Kabila. "Between 2014 and 2015, several months were lost due to the politicization of the census, " they lament.

Political quarrels, chronic underfunding, the mess of projects of international partners ... Pending the elections, which will be postponed twice, the Congolese census is increasingly taking a quadrature of the circle. Even the signing of a new contract in 2018 with the group Sinfic / Quatenus Congo / Novageo does not change the situation. " Sinfic was unable to undertake new activities, " note the two researchers. Which point to the budget inflation of the project: it is now estimated at $ 194 million.

The conclusions of Nangaa

December 2018, the long awaited election finally takes place. But his organization has been peppered with a series of controversies. Like the one on the number of registered voters in some provinces. Two million people had enlisted in Sankuru - the equivalent of 94% of its estimated population - before the Ceni rectified and announced massive grooming of the electoral register.

From this controversial electoral file, the authorities drew the map of the distribution of the 500 seats in the National Assembly. Which brings out some incongruities: provinces deemed hostile to Joseph Kabila lose seats, others win because of the exponential increase in their electoral population. Despite criticism from the opposition - "fraud" of power according to Martin Fayulu - the bill is passed by Parliament and then promulgated by Joseph Kabila.

Target of all critics, the head of the CENI, Corneille Nangaa, made his recommendations a few months after the election. " It is important to launch the census of the population so as to constitute a permanent civil status file ," he noted. While waiting for its effective organization, the government announced last February the launch of the census of companies. Here too, there is urgency: the last one dates back to 1982.

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