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CONGOLESE CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Vote For Honest & Competent Leaders

The Bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have published a statement calling on the electorate to vote responsibly for honest and competent candidates at the upcoming general elections for the good of the future of the nation.

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) leads up to its general elections in six months’ time, the bishops of the Central African nation are calling on Congolese citizens to vote for competence and moral integrity, and to be vigilant so as to ensure a credible electoral process.

On December 20, 2023, voters will elect the country’s President, Members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Assemblies, and of Commune Councils.

Recurrent Political Crises

In a statement released last week at the close of their 60th plenary assembly in Lubumbashi, the capital of the Southern province of Haut-Katanga, the members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), focused on the current political situation in the DRC, recalling that since its independence in 1960 the country has been marred by recurrent political crises related to disputes over the legitimacy of its institutions and leadership.

According to CENCO, stability and the well-being of the Congolese people rest on truly “free, inclusive, transparent and peaceful elections”.

Concern For The Proliferation Of Armed Groups

While acknowledging the diplomatic, political, and military initiatives efforts by the Congolese government to restore peace in the conflict-ridden nation, the bishops deplore the growing insecurity in several parts of the country.

They refer in particular to the Eastern provinces, where armed militias, in particular the resurging M23 group supported by neighbouring Rwanda, continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Political polarization
Security challenges, alongside “the proliferation of armed groups, are of the utmost concern to us,” CENCO members say, lamenting that it is unfortunate that their recommendations on security and national cohesion have gone unheeded

“The Congolese people want peace, justice and thus work for the progress of their country.”

The bishops further deplore the increasing tensions and dangerous polarization in the political arena which, they note, contrasts with the positive signals given by President Felix Tshisekedi at the beginning of his tenure in 2019.

Four years later, the message notes “a deplorable decline” of the political climate, marked by the “violent repression of opposition demonstrations, the restriction of the freedom of movement of opponents, attempts to draft discriminatory laws, the instrumentalization of justice and arbitrary arrests”.

Added to this is the intolerance of political fanatics, who don’t accept different political views and violently attack those they consider as enemies.

They also mention the emerging Mobondo militia which is spreading terror in Western DRC, as well as the Special Brigade of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a branch of the ruling party, “which sometimes collaborates with the police to hunt down political opponents and other peaceful citizens with a critical view of the country’s current governance.”

Call For Responsibility And Vigilance

In this difficult context, the bishops call for a massive and responsible participation of voters in the upcoming elections which, they say, is of vital importance for the future of the country.

General elections, they remark, provide citizens with an opportunity “to renew our confidence in the leaders of institutions that have served the country well, but also to sanction those who have mismanaged it by serving their own interests”.

As for new candidates, priority should be given “to the objective criteria of competence and moral integrity”.

The bishops also warn voters against tribalists, those who practice nepotism and bribery, as well as opportunists who change sides in pursuit of personal interests.

In light of the unfortunate experiences of past elections, including those on 2018, CENCO also calls on Congolese citizens to be vigilant and safeguard their ballots at the polling station.

The statement explains that if voters are aware of the results at the polling stations, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), whose work has been called into question in past elections, “will have no choice but to confirm them”.

The bishops go on to call on CENI to guarantee the transparency of voting and tallying of the votes. Such transparency, they say, can be guaranteed “by complying with legal provisions concerning the mapping of polling centres and stations, the accreditation of election observers, political party witnesses, and journalists, the publication of final electoral lists, and the publication of provisional polling results by polling station.”

The bishops in DRC further demand the Judiciary to comply with the innovation introduced into the Electoral Law, which stipulates that judges must use the minutes and results sheets of the polling and counting stations, made available to them by CENI, to decide between candidates in the event of electoral disputes.

For its part, the CENCO will continue to closely follow the electoral process.

CREDIT: Vatican News

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