, 17 September, 2020 / 7:10 PM
Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are urging Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators to prioritize the interests of the Congolese people during their September sessions that kicked off Tuesday, September 15 in the country’s capital, Kinshasa.
The sessions are considered crucial because the legislators will be seeking to resolve the the stalemate around electoral reforms, the appointment of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) Chair, and the draft finance bill for 2021, among other issues of national importance.
“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 say in their collective statement issued Thursday, September 17 and shared with ACI Africa.
In the statement, the members of CENCO urge the country’s legislators to take keen note of “the deep aspirations of the people for democratic change and not vote for laws that do not meet the good of the Congolese people.”
“Put yourselves truly at the service of the people who have opted for change; usefully managing time to vote laws that promote democracy rather than partisan interests,” the Bishops say in their collective statement signed by CENCO's Secretary-General, Fr. Donatien Nshole.
In June, Bishops in DR Congo called on the government, through the Speaker of the National Assembly, to carry out electoral reforms before appointing the head of the CENI.
However, faith-based leaders in the Central African nation under the Platform of Religious Denominations have remained divided over the choice of the Chairperson of the electoral commission, a prerogative accorded them by the country’s constitution.
In a majority vote on July 2, DRC’s lawmakers decided to have Ronsard Malonda at the helm of CENI, a decision that was contested by Religious leaders and opposition parties, according to a report.
President Félix Tshisekedi rejected the choice of Mr. Malonda as the head of the country’s CENI despite his endorsement by the lawmakers.
In their September 17 collective statement, the members of CENCO invite lawmakers to “diligently adopt fair laws that guarantee the holding of elections and ensure the monitoring of the implementation of the budget for the elections.”
“The revision of the electoral code with a view to ensuring the independence of CENI is more than necessary,” the Catholic Bishops in DRC say.
Referencing their June message to the Congolese people titled “Who sows the wind reaps the storm,” CENCO members invite the legislators to ensure that “the majority in Parliament does not abuse its numerical strength to pass laws unfavorable to the progress of democracy in our country.”
They explain, “The law of the majority is not necessarily synonymous with truth or reason, nor a guarantee of social cohesion. A parliamentary majority, however legal it may be, loses its legitimacy when it is disconnected from the interests and well-being of the people.”
The Bishops also call on the legislators “to control without complacency ministers and state agents and not to seek to modify or favor the interests of individuals or political parties.”
They are also opposed to any attempts to change “the provisions of the Constitution, particularly those relating to the voting procedure.”
“Be sensitive to the pain, suffering, and desires of the population,” they say and continue, “Respect the regulatory provisions of the organization of the opposition at the level of the National Assembly and listen to the country's intellectuals in order to initiate the consensual reforms necessary for the consolidation of democracy.”
In their September 17 statement, the members of CENCO invite the Congolese people to “remain united and vigilant to block the way to any majority or minority that would try to take our country and our future hostage through the adoption of delaying tactics by politicians.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa