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Prioritize Electoral Reforms Over Appointment of Chair, Bishops in DR Congo Demand

The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in DR Congo

Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are demanding that the government, through the Speaker of the National Assembly, carries out electoral reforms before appointing the leadership of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

“The most important thing is that logically, what is needed first are reforms, particularly, the reform of the electoral law and CENI. Because we can have the best candidate, but if it is with the same law, the same configuration, we will not have taken a big step,” the Catholic Bishops in DRC explained in their collective statement issued Tuesday, June 23.

“The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) recommend, like other Civil Society organizations, that it should first have consensual reforms, before continuing talks for one of the possible candidates for the office of this institution,” the Bishops emphasize.

They add, in relation to the appointment of the chairman of CENI, “We have not confirmed anyone.”

Faith-based leaders in DR Congo under the Platform of Religious Denominations remain divided over the choice of the Chairperson of the electoral commission, a prerogative accorded them by the country’s constitution.

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In a statement issued June 17, the members of the platform headed by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo noted that the blockage was due to "the intransigence of some groups and the persistent rumors of corruption within the CENI.”

CENCO and ECC, the main Protestant federation, have openly contested the candidacy of CENI's current national executive secretary, Ronsard Malonda.

“Malonda is "the linchpin" of the 2018 elections; it is simply the continuation of the old CENI,” the members of CENCO indicated in their statement signed by their Secretary-General, Fr. Donatien Nshole.

The Bishops also call on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jeanine Mabunda, “to avoid forcing” the appointment of the president of CENI “for which the people are very concerned.”

“The leaders of religious denominations seek in good faith consensus as the preferred method of decision-making. In the absence of consensus, they shall use a transparent vote in accordance with the values affirmed in Article 8. In the event of a vote, each religious denomination shall cast a single vote. The observer member does not participate in the vote,” the Prelates explain.

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“CENCO, therefore, calls on all stakeholders to work towards an acceptable solution that should reassure the entire population,” they Bishops conclude in their June 23 statement.