DRC: Bishops Caution Against “Congolity” Discriminatory Bill Reintroduced in Parliament

By Arnold Neliba

KINSHASA, APRIL 14, 2023 (CISA)– Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have cautioned the National parliament against approving the discriminatory draft law on “congolity” terming it a tool for political manipulation.

The bill re-introduced in parliament aims at restricting the presidency to people with two native Congolese parents (Congolese by birth). However, its proponents argue that it seeks to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and prevent foreign meddling.

“The Congolese bishops have noted the fact that in accordance with the Constitution, all those who have Congolese nationality, by origin or by adoption are equal before the law. This bill is therefore discriminatory. The Congolese episcopate has explicitly asked Parliament not to pass discriminatory laws. In addition, on the social level, this bill clearly divides the country. It seriously threatens national cohesion,” said Fr Donatien Nshole the SecretaryGeneral of the National Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO).

While recalling the bishops’ statement issued in June 2021 before the bill was rejected in parliament in August of the same year, CENCO’s SecretaryGeneral said the bishops are worried about the vices ​​such as nepotism, tribalism, regionalism, clientelism, the exclusion of political adversaries and all practices and discourses that weaken social ties, which the bill advances.

“The fact that this bill is retained in the National Assembly’s calendar raises the following question: what has changed compared to the conclusions of the research department of this same Assembly which was rejected in 2021 because unconstitutional? If there is not a clear answer to this question then we will conclude that there is political manipulation at a level where such a practice cannot be tolerated. Which does not honour the state,” he stresses.

According to Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, the archbishop of Kinshasa, the bill will add a great conflict” to those already existing in DR-Congo.

“We already have conflicts in the East, in the West and all over the country. I am convinced that this law on “congolity” will add a great conflict to what we already know. The consequences: we may only have our eyes to cry on,” he cautions.

Apart from imposing restrictions on the presidency, the bill also proposes restrictions to the positions of the Prime Minister, President of the Senate and of the National Assembly, to native Congolese.

The proposed bill is similar to the “ivoirite” law used in the Ivory Coast, which was at the centre of the civil wars in 2002 and 2010, with the aftermath being a highly tense ethically driven politics.