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Thousands of Voting Machines Destroyed in Congo Warehouse Fire

In this image from video, smoke envelopes a building as emergency services attend an early-morning fire in Congo's capital Kinshasa, Dec. 13, 2018, which is reported to have destroyed thousands of voting machines just 10-days before the upcoming president

An early morning warehouse fire in Kinshasa has destroyed thousands of voting machines and other election materials that were to be used in Congo's upcoming presidential election.

Barnabe Kikaya, an advisor to outgoing President Joseph Kabila, says about 7,000 voting machines were lost in the Thursday morning fire, which he says was the work of "criminals." But Kikaya said the fire will not disrupt preparations for the December 23 vote.

Questions have been raised about whether the computerized voting machines will be utilized effectively in the Congo, which is plagued with poor infrastructure, along with concerns that the vote could be rigged in favor of President Kabila's preferred successor, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The December 23 vote could mark Congo's first peaceful transition of power since winning its independence from Belgium in 1960.

The race to succeed Kabila, who is stepping down after 17 years in power, has been marred with violence. Security forces opened fire on supporters of opposition candidate Martin Fayulu this week in the town of Kalemie, leaving at least two people dead.