Paul Samasumo – Vatican city.
In a statement released in Kinshasa by the DRC’s Catholic Bishops under the auspices of the Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO), the mission to Zambia was led by the Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa who is also CENCO Vice President, Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M. Cap.
Bishops urge credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections in the DRC
Archbishop Ambongo on Monday met the Zambian President, Edgar Lungu in Lusaka at the country’s State House. On behalf of CENCO, the Archbishop urged President Lungu in his capacity as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Organ on Politics Defense and Security Cooperation (SADC Troika) to support the DRC conduct peaceful elections in December.
“We, the Bishops, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), as sponsors of the New Year's Eve Agreement (Agreement of 31 December 2016), are concerned about the current state of the electoral process of our country. We are convinced that only a credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful election is the real solution and peaceful way out of the socio-political crisis that our country has been going through since 2016,” reads part of the message to President Lungu. The Bishops add, “(We) believe that with your SADC colleagues, you can help the Congolese people come out of this crisis to win the challenge of organising a worthy, credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful election on 23 December 2018.”
Some of the concerns the Bishops outline to President Lungu include fears that eligible voters could be left out due to the biometric voter registration; doubts about the reliability of the national election commission (CENI)’s voting machines; a continuing tense socio-political climate in the country and the persistence of insecurity, particularly in the eastern part of the country.
The Bishops through CENCO would like to see SADC accompany the Congolese people in their march towards the electoral process and play a role in resolving some of the concerns expressed. The ultimate goal, the Bishops say, is for credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections on 23 December 2018.
President Lungu pledges to work with other SADC leaders on matters raised by the Bishops
In a statement on his Facebook page, President Lungu wrote, “I met representatives of the DRC Bishops’ Conference when they paid a courtesy call on me at Statehouse. During our meeting, the DRC Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference Father Donatien Nshole told me that the Church is worried with the current situation in DRC elections. The exclusion of Jean-Pierre Bemba, Moise Katumbi and three other former Prime Ministers may result in the outcome of the elections being undermined,” President Lungu said. He pledged to work with other SADC member states on taking steps to help create confidence in the DRC’s electoral process and ensure that the outcome of the election is free, fair and universally acceptable.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional Economic Community comprising 16 Member States. The SADC Troika on Politics, Security and Defence was launched in June 1996 as a formal institution of SADC with the mandate to support the achievement and maintenance of security and the rule of law in the SADC region.
Congolese Bishops urge Zambians never to lose the peace
At a parish in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, on Sunday, Archbishop Ambongo also had a message for Zambians, calling on them never to lose the peace in the nation.