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Religious Leaders in DR Congo “divided” Over Choice of Electoral Commission Chairperson

The headquarters of the Independence National Electoral Commission (CENI) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Courtesy Photo

There is yet to be consensus among religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the person to head the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), days after the faith-based leaders hinted to concluding the vetting process.

On July 24, the spokesperson of the Forum of Religious Denominations in DRC, Fr. Donatien Nshole, told journalists in that the faith-based leaders who are constitutionally mandated to name CENI Chairperson were “determined” to conclude the vetting and naming process earlier this week.

“It is on Tuesday (July 27) morning that the secretariat will begin, from a technical point of view, vetting shortlisted candidates,” Fr. Nshole who doubles as the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CENCO) said, and added, “The leaders of the religious denominations are determined to do everything possible to conclude on Tuesday if possible.”

However, the religious leaders under their umbrella body of the Forum of Religious Denominations who have been meeting since July 27 are yet to reach a consensus over the choice of the President of CENI.

The faith-based leaders have interviewed the shortlisted candidates, including Cyrille Ebotoko of the Catholic Church, Roger Bimwala of the Salvation Army, Denis Kadima of the Kimbanguist Church, and Daniel Kawata whom the Protestants endorsed.

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“We did not reach a conclusion; the chairman of the meeting asked for time to continue the deliberations,” Fr. Nshole has been quoted as telling journalists July 27.

On Wednesday, July 28, a representative of some six religious denominations, which did not include CENCO and the ECC, announced that the six religious entities had elected a new president of CENI. 

Addressing journalists July 28, Pastor Dodo Kamba of the Church of Revival, hinted to a “walk-out” on the part CENCO and ECC.

Faith-based leaders “are not in conflict with anyone because they are a body as a forum of religious denominations,” Pastor Kamba said, and added, “We recognize the right of each religious denomination to withdraw from any decision to be taken.”

The report of the session, the Congolese Pastor said, will be submitted to the National Assembly, which will have the task of unveiling the name of the new head of CENI.

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In his address to journalists on July 24, the spokesperson of DRC’s faith-based forum that has the mandate to identity CENI President highlighted some of the qualities of the person being sought.

“We need someone who has the exceptional courage to announce the true election results,” Fr. Nshole said and added, “We will not allow mediocrity.” 

According to Fr. Nshole who has been at the helm of CENCO since 2017, “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 July 24.

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