Fraud, Violence Undermined Voter Confidence: Bishops in DR Congo on General Elections

Credit: Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI)

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have identified fraud and violence as incidents that undermined voter confidence in the country’s 20 December 2023 general elections.

In a statement issued Tuesday, January 16, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) highlighted cases of fraud and irregularities recorded during the polls.

“In general, these elections were characterized by fraud, large-scale corruption, vandalism of electoral material, incitement to violence, illegal detention of electronic voting devices (DEVs), buying of consciences, intolerance, impudence, attacks on human rights, human life and the dignity of individuals, including the public humiliation of women,” Catholic Bishops in DRC said.

They added, “The numerous irregularities observed, the incidents noted and the fraud declared seriously affected the elections and undermined voter confidence.”

“This raises questions about the Congolese people's perception of the next Parliament, especially as the provisional results of the national legislative elections show that, at the current stage, only around 6 percent of MPs are from the opposition,” the Catholic Bishops said.


CENCO members continue, “This situation entails a great risk of returning to a one-party system, which would be a major setback for our fledgling democracy.”

On December 31, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) declared President Félix Tshisekedi winner of the Presidential poll with 73 percent of the vote as opposed to 18 percent that his main rival, Martin Fayulu, garnered. 

Several opposition parties have reportedly condemned the results as a “sham”, demanding a rerun. Earlier this week, clashes erupted between some of Fayulu’s supporters and police officers who fired tear gas at protesters.

In their January 16 statement, CENCO members noted that the “chaos” recorded during the elections were “partly due to the obstinacy” of CENI to organize the polls “despite many constraints.”

“We discovered an impressive number of parallel votes with voting machines found in private homes. Some people are wondering whether the organizing authorities were not involved in some kind of planning,” CENCO members said.

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They further explained that “the ease with which DEVs and rolls of ballot papers were found in the hands of private individuals is surprising to many. CENI should question its role in this imbroglio, as it has exclusive control over all these machines and has never complained of any theft of its equipment.”

The Catholic Church leaders said, “CENI did not accede to the request to set up a joint and independent commission of enquiry. It has managed to position itself as judge and jury in order to invalidate 82 candidates. It announced a second list of invalidated candidates, which has still not been published.”

“The mapping of polling stations was published with enormous irregularities,” CENCO members said, adding that after analysis, they were able to “detect anomalies including the existence of 3706 polling stations duplicated 2 or even 3 times, with the result that the number of voters increased by more than 2,400,000.”

Against this backdrop, the Church leaders have appealed to the government to “carry out serious investigations to identify all those involved in the misappropriation of the DEVs.”

The Catholic Bishops also call on the government to “propose to the legislature the reform of CENI in order to ensure and guarantee good electoral governance.”


“Its independence must be clearly clarified in relation to the national laws that govern our country and the legitimate expectations of the Congolese people,” they add.

CENCO members urge the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Courts and Tribunals to “deal ex officio with all denunciations in order to invalidate known fraudsters who have been provisionally proclaimed as elected; to deal with cases relating to electoral appeals and disputes without complacency; to be at the service of justice and not of individuals.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.