DRC: “Let’s Be Vigilant and Awake To Protect Our Vote,” Catholic Bishops Appeal Ahead of December General Elections

By Paschal Norbert

KINSHASA, NOVEMBER 24, 2023 (CISA) – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to hold elections on December 20, 2023. Ahead of this decisive poll in which 23 candidates hope to unseat the incumbent, President Felix Tshisekedi, the Catholic Bishops are appealing to the electorate to be more vigilant and exercise the criteria of competence and moral uprightness in the choice of the candidates.

“The elections give us the power to renew confidence in the leaders of the institutions which have served the country well, but also to sanction all those who have mismanaged by serving their own interests. Faced with new candidates, let us favour objective criteria of competence and moral probity,” said the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) in a press statement dated November 22.

The bishops also asked the voters to condemn and ‘weed out opportunists’ who change political camps for selfish interests, those who favour family members as substitutes, demonstrate tribalism and nepotism, and those who ‘buy’ voters.

“When election time comes, let’s be vigilant and awake to protect our vote,” the bishops said while appealing to the people to exercise vigilance and citizen awareness to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

In the statement, the Catholic bishops called on international observer missions and interested parties committed to free and fair elections in the DRC to bolster the capacity of local observer groups to ensure that the voting process is carried out transparently.

“We encourage those of you who are committed to organizing an election watch to lend a helping hand to traditional observation missions,” CENCO said.

Addressing the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), the bishops maintained that the acceptance of the results of next month’s elections will greatly depend on compliance with legal provisions, including the publication of electoral lists, downloadable electoral mapping, and especially the publication of results by each polling station. The prelates argued that these measures are critical in improving the perception of the work of CENI and will strengthen the current lack of trust in the electoral body.

“Let’s not leave the polling stations until we have posted the results,” the bishops rallied the electorate.

Amid a tense political climate and against a backdrop of armed conflict in eastern DRC, the country officially launched a month-long election campaign on November 19, with around 44 million registered voters expected to vote in the presidential, legislative, provincial and municipal elections.