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Religious Leaders in DR Congo Want President to Reject “endorsed” Electoral Chairman

Ronsard Malonda, endorsed as head of DR Congo's Electoral Commission CENI by the National Assembly.

Religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have, in a collective statement, asked President Félix Tshisekedi not to accept the National Assembly’s “endorsement” of Ronsard Malonda as the head of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), terming the decision by the members of parliament “controversial.”

“The leadership of the Platform of Religious Confessions represented by the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ in Congo, learned with amazement the news of the endorsement by the National Assembly, in its session of Thursday, July 2, of the designation of Mr. Ronsard Malonda to the post of Chairman of the CENI,” the religious leaders have said in their statement issued Friday, July 3.

They add in reference to the nomination of Mr. Malonda, “We request your very high authority not to consider the controversial proposal for the appointment of the chairman of CENI endorsed by the National Assembly in its session of July 2,” they say.

“At this stage, no candidate for President of CENI has been nominated or elected and the process was suspended due to lack of consensus,” the religious leaders argue.

On Thursday, July 2, DRC’s lawmakers endorsed Ronsard Malonda as head of CENI, a decision that is being contested by opposition parties and religious leaders, according to reports.

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Last month, Catholic Bishops expressed their reservations about having in place a person at the helm of CENI before carrying out electoral reforms.

“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.

Petitioning the Speaker of the National Assembly to consider prioritizing reforms, the Catholic Bishops reiterated, “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.”

In the July 3 joint statement with other religious leaders, the President of DRC is asked to distance himself from the decision of the National Assembly.

The appointment of Ronsard Malonda as head of the CENI must be ratified by President Tshisekedi to be effective, according to the country’s constitution.

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On Saturday, July 4, members of the civil society including the Secular Coordinating Committee and the Congolese Stand Up Movement staged a peaceful demonstration to contest the National Assembly’s endorsement of Mr. Malonda.

In their July 3 collective statement, the representatives of the platform headed by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo say, “The appointment of the members of CENI and its President cannot be transformed into a place of conquest or conservation of power. On the contrary, it offers an opportunity to consolidate national unity and our young democracy.”

“We invite the socio-political components concerned to a constructive dialogue with a view to reforming the electoral system and appointing personalities who meet the legal criteria,” they add, underscoring their priority for reforms.

The leaders continue, “The Congolese people demand transparent and credible elections organized by a truly independent and impartial CENI, which alone can provide legitimate leaders and guarantee national peace.”

They appeal to President Tshisekedi, “The Catholic Church and the Church of Christ in Congo remain convinced that you will use all your constitutional prerogatives as guarantor of the regular functioning of the institutions of the Republic and of national unity to satisfy the deep aspirations of our people.”

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