Catholic Church in DR Congo Ready to Resume Talks on Electoral Commission Head: Archbishop

Archbishop Marcel Utembi of DRC's Kisangani Archdiocese. Credit: Archdiocese of Kisangani/Facebook

The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is ready to return to the “negotiating table” and complete the process of having the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) appointed, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ conference has said.

Speaking to journalists Wednesday, October 13, Archbishop Marcel Utembi highlighted the Church’s role in the ongoing deliberations toward the appointment of CENI head.

“As your leaders, it is our duty to ensure that a suitable candidate is selected as head of CENI. We cannot permit politicians to manipulate religious leaders,” the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said.

Even though DRC’s religious leaders are yet to reach a consensus on the person to be appointed, Archbishop Utembi noted, the leadership of the Catholic Church in the Central African country is “ready to return to the negotiating table to select a suitable candidate as head of CENI.”

Religious leaders in DRC have remained divided over the appointment of the person to be at the helm of CENI, a prerogative accorded them by the country’s constitution.


On October 4, the members of the Forum of Religious Denominations were not able to reach a consensus, even after the 72-hour deadline given by the National Assembly President elapsed. 

In a letter addressed to the President of the National Assembly, the Vice President of CENCO, Bishop José Moko Ekanga, said the faith-based leaders “did not reach a consensus despite our request to the six other denominations to present us with other candidates. We did not vote either.”

Bishop Ekanga added, “We proposed to come back on Monday 4/10/2021 in the hope of evolving but the group of six told us that it is not useful, so we might as well wait for the position that the Plenary of the National Assembly will take.” 

With this in mind, the Local Ordinary of DRC’s Idiofa Diocese further explained, “we parted ways. A comprehensive report from the Presidium on the process of appointing INEC facilitators by the Forum of Religious Denominations will reach you shortly.”

The leaders from the country's main religious denominations including the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) rejected the choice of Denis Kadima, an electoral expert, proposed by six other denominations.

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Addressing journalists during the October 13 press conference, Archbishop Utembi explained that representatives of the Catholic Church did not see Mr. Kadima as meeting some of the essential requirements.

On why the religious leaders did not vote as provided for in the statutes, the President of CENCO said, “Voting as a mode of decision can only occur as a last resort if all conditions are met.”

These values, the Local Ordinary of DRC’s Kisangani Archdiocese said, include “truth, honesty, credibility and justice.”

“When we realize that there are people who are working behind the scenes to go against the truth, we cannot manage to organize any vote,” he further observed. 

Making reference to CENI statutes, Archbishop Utembi further explained, “Only members of civil society and religious denominations with proven experience in electoral matters can participate in this process. This is not the case for the other six religious denominations.”


On October 6, the Apostolic Nuncio in DRC said the role of the Catholic Church is to support democracy by ensuring an inclusive, credible and peaceful general elections in 2023.

Addressing journalists after an audience with the President of the National Assembly, Christophe Mboso, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero highlighted his deliberations with the leadership of DRC’s parliament.

“We talked about the electoral process with the president of the National Assembly. I told him that the only objective for which the Catholic Church is participating in the electoral process is to give its contribution to democracy in the DRC through inclusive, credible and peaceful elections in 2023,” Archbishop Balestrero said.

The Catholic Church, the Apostolic Nuncio added, “wants to safeguard the well-being of the Congolese people.” 

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.