DR CONGO: Bishops Urge Politicians to Respect Constitution Ahead of Elections

KINSHASA NOVEMBER 17, 2015 (CISA) – The Catholic Church in Democratic Republic of Congo has urged politicians to show “absolute respect” for the constitution in talks ahead of presidential elections in 2016.

The bishops reaffirmed their ‘No’ to any constitutional ammendments that could open the path for a third term for President Kabila, whose term expires in 2016.

The Congolese Constitution provides for only two presidential terms. President Joseph Kabila is set to convene a “national dialogue” to help ensure “peaceful elections”, but the opposition says this is a strategy to get round the constitution and stand for a third elected five-year term.

“Dialogue is the path and peaceful solution to the crisis. It is a constituent element of any democratic system. We need to emphasize that dialogue must take place in full respect of the constitutional and institutional framework in force. To do otherwise would result in danger, with incalculable consequences for the nation,” said the bishops in a statement sent to Fides signed by Bishop Nicolas Djomo of the Catholic Diocese of Tshumbe and President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.

Kabila was first asked to take power in 2001, aged 29, to replace his father, Laurent Desire Kabila, during the Second Congo War, also known as the Great Africa War.

The conflict embroiled more than half a dozen countries until 2003, partly because others wanted a stake in the DRC’s fabulous mineral wealth and is reported to have left more than three million people dead.

On Monday 16 November, Kabila told foreign ambassadors posted to the DRC that talks would soon be held on the electoral timetable and the financing and security measures for the elections.

He gave no date for the polls, due to be held before the end of 2016. In a direct challenge to the authorities, church leaders also warned that “no transition” and “no extraordinary institutions” should be set up ahead of 2016 presidential and parliamentary polls, because these would again be “contrary to the constitution”.