DRC’s Catholic Bishops Want “independent body with experienced” to Audit Voter Register

The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in DRC. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are calling on the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to seek the expertise of “an independent body with experience” alongside “a few national experts” to audit the country’s voter register.

On April 24, CENI finalized a nationwide process to update voter lists ahead of the Central African country’s general elections scheduled for December this year.

In a press release issued May 5, the electoral body announced it was going to launch a call for applications with a view to setting up a joint mission composed of national and international experts for the external audit of the voter register. 

On May 8, CENI issued a press release calling for applications for the External Audit Mission. 

In a statement issued Thursday, May 11, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) express reservations about the process leading to the appointment of the auditors and urge transparency in the selection of candidates.


“It is in the interest of CENI and the electoral process itself that an independent body with experience in the field be identified and invited to carry out this work in a timely manner, involving a few national experts, respecting the conditions that preserve national sovereignty, without offending the independence of the body,” CENCO members say.

They explain, “The external audit of an electoral register is part of the good electoral practice. Many African countries where there is mistrust between political actors and a lack of public confidence in the process resort to it.” 

“The audit of the electoral register has allowed several states to reach a consensus on the voters' lists and to restore public confidence in the electoral process and the resulting results, which is what the CENI and the electoral process in DR Congo need today,” the Catholic Church leaders add in their statement read out by the Secretary General of CENCO, Fr. Donatien Nshole. 

They note that the auditing “is normally conducted by an independent organization or agency selected in a transparent manner, in accordance with the principles of CENI’s call for applications and its terms of reference.”

In their May 11 statement, Catholic Bishops in DRC recall that “the constitution of an electoral register is often the subject of much controversy in most African countries.”

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“The identification and enrolment of voters have not escaped this reality, given the conditions in which it took place and the positions taken by certain political and civil society actors,” CENCO members say.

Making reference to the conditions for appointing the members of the audit mission, the Bishops say, “Item 17 of the Call for Applications for the External Audit Mission published by CENI clearly indicates that the electoral center will recruit and organize consultants to conduct the audit of the register compiled by CENI.”

In addition, CENCO members say, “Point 14 will allow CENI to censor the methodology of the audit (it must validate it) and the resulting report (it must approve it).”

The Catholic Bishops in DRC note that “these provisions are in contradiction with another provision of Point 17, which requires that no stakeholder be in a conflict-of-interest situation.”

They also say the six-day period to carry out the audit mission “seems insufficient to analyze the legal and regulatory framework, including all related procedures, to evaluate the uniqueness of each voter in the sample (regardless of size), to assess the inclusiveness, accuracy, and completeness of the file, and to draft the various reports.”


“It is clear from the above that the team to be put in place by CENI will not be independent and its report could be biased or manipulated,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say.

They continue, “As a result, there is a high risk that consensus will not be reached on the electoral file, mistrust between political actors will be reinforced and public confidence in the electoral process will deteriorate.”

“Ultimately, the credibility of the electoral process and the resulting results will be increasingly undermined,” CENCO members warn in their May 11 statement, and add, “CENI will thus have missed one of the good opportunities to make this process credible.”

They caution all election stakeholders that if the “external audit of the electoral register is carried out in this way, there is reason to fear that doubts about the sincerity of the electoral process will grow and create the conditions for contesting the results of the expected elections.”

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.