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Confirmation of DR Congo’s Electoral Commission Head “endorsement of irregularity”: Bishop

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

The decision by President Félix Tshisekedi to confirm Denis Kadima as the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) despite opposition from the Catholic and Protestant churches amounts to endorsing an “irregularity”, a Catholic Bishop in the Central African nation has said.

On October 22, President Tshisekedi confirmed the appointment of Mr. Kadima as the head of CENI alongside 12 others as members of the electoral body, days after Catholic Bishops in the country urged him to reject the endorsement that had been made by lawmakers. 

“We have followed everything that has happened before arriving at this stage, which practically confirms an irregularity. Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku told journalists October 23, making reference to President Tshisekedi confirmation of Mr. Kadima as head of CENI.

The Catholic Church has taken note of the “endorsement of CENI members” despite opposition from members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), Bishop Paluku further said, and added, “This does not mean that the Church will withdraw or give up its role as the voice of the voiceless.”

“We will see how to work with the president and continue to defend the interest of the people,” the Congolese Bishop went on to say, adding that the “Catholic Church will always defend what she thinks is the truth and justice even after the endorsement of irregularity in the new CENI team.”

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On October 16, DRC’s National Assembly endorsed Mr. Kadima as President of CENI, a candidate who had been rejected by the Catholic and Protestant church representatives as well as opposition parties in the country, according to reports.

DRC’s eight main religious institutions are constitutionally mandated to choose, by consensus, CENI President. There was lack of consensus during the multiple consultative meetings, with representatives of the Catholic Church and those of the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) expressing their concerns about the independence of Mr. Kadima.

While the faith-based leaders recognized Mr. Kadima’s expertise in electoral matters, CENCO and ECC representatives claimed that he is too close to President Tshisekedi, a factor that would compromise the credibility the country’s general elections.

“We want peaceful, credible elections and we are convinced that with Kadima, we will not obtain them,” CENCO Secretary General who doubles as the spokesperson of the Forum of Religious Denominations in DRC, Fr. Donatien Nshole, told journalists October 16.

In his address to journalists October 23, Bishop Paluku said, “Good has always prevailed over evil no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. The Church always works in the direction of what is good, what is true, beautiful.”

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On Sunday, October 24, the Archbishop of DRC’s Kinshasa Archdiocese was quoted as saying that the Catholic Church “cannot remain silent in the face of the irresponsibility of some of us, who jeopardize the destiny of humanity in general and that of a whole people in particular.”

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo who was addressing the faithful at St. Dominic Parish, noted that “as missionaries of modern times, we also cannot remain silent in the face of certain situations of injustice, lack of freedom and contempt for human dignity.”

CENI is made up of 13 members. The Civil society is represented by three delegates from religious denominations, women's rights organizations, and civic and electoral education organizations.

President Tshisekedi has been quoted as urging the new members of CENI he confirmed October 22 “to work for the organization of free, democratic and transparent elections within the constitutional deadline.”