West & Central Africa

Congo bishops call on President not to contest future election

Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have called on President Joseph Kabila “to reassure public” that he will not be a candidate “to his own succession.” The bishops made the demand in a resolution of an extraordinary meeting on DRC’s crisis, on Monday 27 November.

The bishops declaration is aimed at preventing plunging the country into a protracted crisis in the light of the tension created by his refusal to step down earlier last year.

Kabila who came into office in 2001, refused to step down launching a bloody crackdown on protests against his decision. A court ruling has allowed Kabila to remain in office until a successor is elected in December.

The Roman Catholic bishops last year had brokered a deal for elections to be conducted in 2017 which failed with the country’s electoral commission blaming logistical problems. The electoral commission had argued that organising any election was not possible before March 2019, but later changed its date due to pressure from the international community.

Elections have been set for December 23 2018. There have been mixed signals from president Kabila which have been raising anxiety in DRC.

The National Assembly started the first round of a review into electoral reform, under sharp criticisms from lawmakers on Monday. Reports say the bill will be passed by Friday and possibly passed into law by December 15, according to the schedule, but members disagree over the details.

The electoral bill aims to create a “legal threshold of representativeness” in parliament to discourage “fanciful candidatures” and promote “groupings of political parties”, interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari said, adding DR Congo has 703 political groups.

Shadari claimed “everybody is against” the threshold, although Henri Mova Sakanyi, secretary general of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), said it would “allow us to be much more comfortable”.

The bishops insist that “It is essential, on the grounds of (demonstrating) sincere political will, to reassure the Congolese people and international partners by providing guarantees that elections will effectively be held,” they warned.

The Bishops asked the government to publish a funding plan for the poll and to ease constraints concerning political prisoners and exiles.

Kabila took office after his father Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated in 2001 at the height of the Second Congo War. He was confirmed as leader in 2006 during the first free elections since independence, and re-elected for a second term in 2011 in a vote marred by accusations of fraud.

 

Hassan John is west Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos

Image Credits:CC/Google images DRC