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Catholic Bishops in DR Congo Present Roadmap for 2023 General Elections

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

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have unveiled the roadmap for the General elections slated to take place in 2023.

“The successful outcome of an electoral process depends on the more responsible participation of all the parties involved, each according to its prerogatives,” the Secretary Secretary-General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), Fr. Donatien Nshole told journalists March 18

Fr. Nshole added, “Faithful to their mission of solidarity with the aspirations of the people, the Bishops strongly reaffirm, through this roadmap, their commitment to prepare the Congolese people and to accompany their leaders during this period which precedes the holding of the 2023 elections.”

Titled “Agenda 2023,” the Bishops’ roadmap, which runs till February 2024 outlines a series of activities in the pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral periods, including civic and electoral education campaign, the establishment of the electoral calendar, and election observation.

“We want to reassure the leaders and activists of political parties and groups that the Agenda 2023 of CENCO is not a roadmap to fight the political actors,” the Catholic Bishops in DRC clarify.

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The roadmap, Fr. Nshole told journalists, is in fact a “planned program to mobilize the population around the electoral issue so that their vote brings to power people and programs that meet their aspirations.”

The roadmap of the members of CENCO was handed over to the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace (CEJP), represented by Fr. Clément Makiobo, for its follow up.

Addressing journalists at the March 18 press conference, Fr. Makiobo said that “preparing the elections requires time and means. It is therefore up to the different actors of the electoral process, the leading political parties, to really get involved in the different phases of this process.”

“In any state governed by the rule of law, the authority of the public authorities can only be based on the will of the people expressed through sincere, free and regular elections, that is, periodically by universal suffrage,” the CEJP Secretary added.

Fr. Makiobo further said that the people expect Parliamentarians to “answer the question of the legal framework of the elections, that is, to vote electoral reforms as a priority while avoiding that these reforms lead to a delay in the organization of the elections.”

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“I hope that this roadmap would really make a positive contribution to the consolidation of Congolese democracy, peace and national cohesion,” the Congolese Cleric said.

He further said in reference to the Catholic Bishops’ roadmap, “May it be welcomed as an instrument of work and exchange in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect, thus allowing the emergence of a genuine democratic culture among citizens.”

Earlier this month, members of CENCO called for electoral reforms in the DRC 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 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.”

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Against the backdrop of the Bishops’ message, a section of the Congolese government accused members of CENCO of overstepping their mandate.

In a press release issued March 3, the Congolese Minister for Communication and Media stated that DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) is the only body empowered to organize elections in the Central African nation.

“There are matters that do not fall under the discretionary power of the government or the presidency of the Republic. And therefore, if there are issues related to the organization of elections, the competent authority is the National Independent Electoral Commission,” Jolino Makelele stated.

Mr. Makelele described the message of the members of CENCO as “a gratuitous kick in the anthill, without knowing exactly what it would result be.”

The government Minister, however, sought to clarify, “We do not disapprove of advice from wherever it comes from, as long as it is well-intentioned. And therefore, all these matters should not, from our point of view, be the subject of any kind of controversy that could hinder the good relations that should exist between a citizen organization like CENCO and the government, and even the presidency of the Republic.”

In his March 18 address to journalists, Fr. Nshole noted that “CENCO members only made a simple reminder of some provisions of articles 70, 103, 105, 197 and 198 of the Constitution of the DRC, which determine the duration and the number of terms of office of the President of the Republic, Members of Parliament, of the Senators, Regional delegates as well as of the Governors and Vice-Governors.”

On March 20, religious leaders in DRC met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Christophe Mboso, to discuss the electoral process.

The members of the platform of religious denominations urged DRC’s members of parliament to accelerate the process of appointing CENI members saying, “There is something important that must be done in the logic of the commitment already made by the Parliament to finalize this work, namely, the urgent consideration of the proposed Lutundula law on the organization of the CENI.”

The religious leaders added, “It is a proposal that has regularly followed the procedure and has already been passed by the government. All that remains is the debate. Logically, if there is really good faith, we can settle this in less than a month by both Chambers.”