DR Congo Church Leaders Want Poll Body to Have Civil Society in Majority of Members

The headquarters of the Independence National Electoral Commission (CENI) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) are recommending that in the composition of the Independence National Electoral Commission (CENI), civil society members constitute the majority.

In a June 11 joint statement, the Church leaders say that such a majority representation is in line with the consensus reached during consultations issued by the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi.

CENI, the body responsible for overseeing elections in the Central African nation, has been under scrutiny with most of its critics saying the electoral entity should be “depoliticized” for credible 2023 general elections. 

On June 11, the Congolese Senate passed a proposal for an Organic Law on how the operations of CENI will be carried out. A total of 95 members of the senate voted for the bill out of the possible 109, a result similar to that from the National Assembly.

Members of ECC and CENCO have expressed their disagreement with the text adopted in the two DRC’s legislative houses, pushing for “the principle of proportionality” at the least.


“While the amendments made to the bill on electoral reforms by Christophe Lutundula's PAJ Commission are controversial, particularly on the issue of the composition of the bureau, we propose that the number of delegates to the plenary should respect the principle of proportionality between the political and civil society components,” the Christian leaders in DRC say.

Making reference to the recent parliamentary vote for CENI reforms,  CENCO and ECC members say, “We are very surprised that other provisions aimed at strengthening the independence of the CENI as well as those instituting technical and administrative control contained in this Lutundula bill were pruned from the text adopted at the National Assembly.”

People should be appointed to the commission based on their expertise, moral integrity, probity and intellectual honesty rather than their party or political groupings, they say, and add, “We propose the inclusion in the texts of the mechanisms for strengthening the independence of the CENI as well as those which institute its technical and administrative control,” opine the leaders.

The CENCO and ECC members further express their opposition to the use of a joint majority-opposition commission to examine the files of the potential candidates to the electoral body because such procedure would seem to favor the politicization of the appointment process.

In April, DRC religious leaders urged Members of Parliament (MPs) to practice impartiality as they debate about new members to constitute the CENI.

More in Africa

“This is a good opportunity for us to recall that the purpose of the urgently needed reforms in this area is to strengthen the legal mechanisms likely to guarantee the independence, neutrality and impartiality of CENI so as to reassure all electoral actors of the credibility of the 2023 elections,” the religious leaders under their umbrella body of the Forum of Religious Denominations said April 21.

They cautioned against influence due to political affiliations saying that the major challenge remains the “need to minimize political influence on the electoral body.”

Last year, the leaders asked President Tshisekedi not to accept the National Assembly’s “endorsement” of Ronsard Malonda as the head of CENI, terming the decision by the members of parliament “controversial.”

Since then, faith-based leaders in the country have remained divided over the choice of the Chairperson of the electoral commission, a prerogative accorded them by the country’s constitution.

In September 2020, DRC’s Catholic Bishops urged MPs and Senators to prioritize the interests of the Congolese people during their deliberations in the country’s capital, Kinshasa.


“The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) reminds the Honorable parliamentarians and Senators of the Democratic Republic of Congo of their duty to vote laws that give priority to the interest of the Congolese people,” the Bishops said in their September 2020 statement.

In February, CENCO members called for electoral reforms in the Central African nation saying it “should be among the priorities of the new government.”

In their statement released after the February 22 to 25 meeting of CENCO’s Standing Committee, the Catholic Bishops further called on the Congolese government to do “everything possible to win the challenge of organizing credible, transparent and peaceful elections in 2023 and not later.”

They also urged the International Community to help the country's institutions to "bring about reforms in favor of the Congolese population in order to prepare adequately for the 2023 elections.”