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Prioritize Political Solution that “respects Congolese people”: Bishops to DRC President

Members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) with President Felix Tshisekedi during an audience Monday, November 9, 2020.

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have, in a collective memorandum, called on the President of the Central African nation to prioritize policies that contribute toward the well-being of the Congolese.  

In an audience with President Felix Tshisekedi Monday, November 9, the members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) presented the memorandum that outlines proposals aimed at helping the ruling coalition stakeholders resolve the current differences and focus on all that fosters the welfare of the people of God in DRC.

“With regard to the political situation in our country, one thing seems certain to us. There is a need for a political solution that respects the Congolese people. With the current dynamics of the coalition, we cannot expect the reconstruction of the country,” CENCO members say in their November 9 collective document.

They urge the head of state to “seriously evaluate the content of the Agreement that regulates the coalition and the way it functions to see if there is a possibility of an internal revolution.”

“If not, as the guarantor of the Nation, it is up to you to assume your responsibilities and take, in soul and conscience, before God and the Nation, the appropriate decision by virtue of article 69 of the Constitution,” the Catholic Bishops in DRC say in the memorandum shared with ACI Africa.

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In the 4-page document presented to President Tshisekedi, CENCO members add, “It is important to remember that there are values that every human person, every institution, whatever the motives behind their behavior, must not violate. Serving the well-being of the people, truth, justice, and peace are among these fundamental, essential values.”

President Felix Tshisekedi took office in January 2019 after winning an election, which observers said was marred by irregularities and opponents denounced as rigged.

Seven months after his inauguration, the Congolese President formed a coalition government that included a majority of members from the previous regime of former President Joseph Kabila.

The coalition government put a brake on Tshisekedi's declared ambitions of reforming a country marked by corruption and human rights abuses, the East African reported.

In their November 9 memorandum signed by CENCO President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi, the Bishops make reference to the address of President Tshisekedi when he “acknowledged” the failure of the ruling coalition.

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“The members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) followed with great interest your last address to the Nation on Friday, 23 October 2020, in which you acknowledged that, two years after your accession to the supreme magistracy, the persistent divisions within the ruling coalition on issues essential to the life of the Nation have not enabled you to accomplish the task entrusted to you by the people,” the Catholic Bishops in DRC say in their collective memorandum.

They add, “We are pleased to note that the strong ideas of your speech of 23 October are in line with the concerns expressed several times by the CENCO member Bishops in their messages.”

On November 4, President Tshisekedi began consultations with political and other stakeholders on the way out of the political stalemate that has seen the functioning of State institutions halted over disagreements among members of the ruling coalition.

In their November 9 memorandum, the Bishops in DR Congo express their appreciation to the Head of State “for involving us in the consultations you have initiated on the governance of our country at this delicate moment of her history.”

“You have taken the option of restructuring government action around the principles of participation in the management of the country by announcing the creation of a single-hearted unity in the nation. You have thus initiated the ongoing consultations to gather the opinions of different stakeholders,” the members of CENCO add in their memorandum to the President.

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Reflecting on what is expected from the consultations, the Bishops remind the President about the principles that “must be preserved at all costs and be taken into account in the search for an appropriate political solution.”

“Priority should be on the well-being of the population over all other political considerations. No political settlement can be above the requirement for the political power to do its best to ensure the well-being of the population,” the Bishops emphasize in the document.

They further say, “The respect for the Constitution, ensuring national security, the stability of the State and its Institutions, social peace and the rule of law and democracy” are other principles necessary to resolve the political stalemate in the Central African nation.

“With regard to the reforms that should consolidate the electoral system of our country, we insist above all on the depoliticization and strengthening of the independence of the members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and recommend true consensual reforms of the electoral law,” the Bishops in DRC say.

In the 11-point memorandum, CENCO members remind President Tshisekedi that “the people expect from these consultations results that give clear indications of a new system of governance that would put it at the centre of the concerns of political actors.” 

“Your credibility is at stake,” they say and continue, “The solution of the single-hearted unity of the Nation that you envisage will only be possible if its components agree, before any other consideration, to serve the population that today feels abandoned.”

They call on the Congolese President to “stand firm in your faith in God, remain open to men and women of goodwill who can contribute to a new dynamic of good governance.”

“Be reassured by our prayers. CENCO will not hesitate to contribute to any initiative you take that will have as its goal the well-being of the Congolese people entrusted to its pastoral care,” the members of CENCO conclude in their memorandum.