Church warns of “grave problems” with upcoming DR Congo polls
The Catholic Church leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have warned of “crises” and “grave problems” in the forth coming elections if the polls are rigged.
Monsignor Marcel Utembi, President of the National Episcopal Conference (CENCO) said, “If elections are biased, they will keep us in a crisis … and the lack of clarification in the situation will cause grave problems.” He advised the government to implement all provisions of the Dec. 31, 2016 agreement the Church had mediated and agreed on.
The Catholic Church, in several mediation and interventions to bring the crises in Congo DR to an end, had pressured President Joseph Kabila to step down when he tried to extend his tenure. The Catholic Church organised street protests that resulted in the killing of dozens of people by security forces who tried to squash the protests.
The Catholic Church leaders said the credibility of elections will further be strengthen with the presence of national and international observers during the polls.
Concerns have been raised about President Kabila imposing his chosen candidate, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Controversies have been further raised by Kabila insisting on using electronic voting machines which is seen as “arbitrary application of rules to certain candidates.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley raised a series of “red flags and unanswered questions” at Monday’s council meeting, 27 August, wanting to know if there be enough machines, whether electoral authorities can recharge them with only a 12-hour battery life and if the election organisers have widely tested them.
Haley wanted to know how the electoral commission is going to transport election materials to more than 90,000 polling places and if voters know how to use touchscreens. She also requested to know wether organisers intend to prepare paper ballots as a back-up.
“Paper ballots were good enough to get president Kabila elected, and they should be good enough as a fail-safe to elect his successor,” Haley said.
President Kabila further raised eyebrows when he insisted the Congo DR will solely fund the elections and didn’t need assistance from the UN. “It can’t help but raise suspicion when the Congolese government refuses the assistance that would help make free, fair and credible elections a reality, but continue to take the humanitarian assistance that so many of us continue to give them,” Haley pointed out.
The Catholic Church, like the U.N., has raised concerns about the imposition of candidates when the Electoral Commission disqualified “some opposition presidential candidates for what appear to be political reasons.” Haley pointed out that there must be “a level playing field” for all candidates with out any fear of intimidation.
However, DR Congo’s U.N. Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita insisted that there is an ongoing awareness on the use of voting machines insisting that Congo DR, remains open to support from other partners as long as this support comes without preconditions and respects the sovereignty of the country,” Gata Mavita said.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.