Religious Leaders in DR Congo Set to Announce New Head of Electoral Commission

Logo of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in DR Congo. Credit: CENI

Religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are expected to announce the person to be at the helm of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) anytime from Tuesday, July 27.

According to DRC’s constitution, faith-based leaders have the prerogative to name the Chairperson of the electoral commission in the Central African nation. 

Addressing journalists over the weekend, the spokesperson of the forum of religious denominations in DRC, Fr. Donatien Nshole gave updates of the process of naming CENI Chairperson.

“The leaders of religious denominations agreed that the technical secretariat should meet Monday to receive the last files of candidates that have been processed at the level of each religious denomination,” Fr. Nshole said Saturday, July 24.

The Congolese Catholic Priest added, “It is on Tuesday (July 27) morning that the secretariat will begin, from a technical point of view, vetting shortlisted candidates.”


“The leaders of the religious denominations are determined to do everything possible to conclude on Tuesday if possible,” the spokesperson of the the forum of religious denominations in DRC who doubles as the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CENCO) added.

He went on to highlight some of the qualities of the person being sought to head CENI saying, “We need someone who has the exceptional courage to announce the true election results.”

“We will not allow mediocrity,” Fr. Nshole who has been at the helm of CENCO since 2017 told journalists, and reiterated, “The ideal is to work to have someone who has leadership and proven ethics, a mastery of electoral governance.”

He described the mandate religious leaders in DRC have to appoint the head of CENI as “a difficult task” particularly because of “the political environment that we know.”

“Thanks to God and thanks to the good will of everyone, we will get through this, but rest assured that we will not allow mediocrity to take over,” the member of the Clergy of DRC’s Inongo Diocese added.

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

In their collective statement issued April 21, the faith-based leaders in DRC said it was  “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.”

In the statement, DRC’s religious forum that is chaired by the Catholic Archbishop of Kinshasa, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, cautioned against influence due to political affiliations saying the major challenge remains the “need to minimize political influence on the electoral body.”

They outlined issues to be taken into consideration in order “to achieve the objectives assigned, for the designation of the members of CENI.”

“We encourage the option of the freedom of the major stakeholders to choose their representatives in CENI,” the religious leaders said.


They added, “In case of lack of consensus among major stakeholders, we propose that the bureau of the Assembly designate three competent independent personalities from good offices within a limited time, for the National Assembly cannot both designate and endorse.”

Regarding how CENI should be organized, the members of DRC’s forum of religious denominations called for “the establishment of a committee with equal representation of the three major stakeholders (political parties, civil society and religious leaders), to ensure the monitoring and control of CENI through a periodic technical evaluation.”

Last year, DRC’s Catholic Bishops urged members of parliament (MPs) and Senators to prioritize the interests of the Congolese people.

“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 statement issued in September 2020 following their deliberations in the country’s capital, Kinshasa.

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

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In their statement released after the February 22-25 meeting of CENCO’s Standing Committee, the 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.”

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.