Marie José Muando Buabualo - Vatican City
On the eve of the start of official campaigning in that country, for the general elections scheduled for 23 December 2018, the Congolese Catholic Bishops Conference (CENCO) says it is meeting in an extraordinary plenary in its role as "Prophet and Shepherd.
In an exclusive interview, this week, the Secretary-General of CENCO, Fr Donatien Nshole told Marie José Muando Buabualo of Vatican News’ French Africa Service that the Bishops believe it is necessary for them to meet and take stock, evaluate the electoral process, give guidance, and make recommendations in order to “improve what can be improved.” The Bishops also reaffirm that as Shepherds they will always be on the side of the people.
Herewith excerpts of the interview:
Is the electoral process in any danger?
Already last June, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, CENCO, sent a vibrant message: "Save the electoral process." At the time, the Bishops felt that the electoral process was in danger in light of some concerns, and made proposals towards those concerns. For this new extraordinary plenary assembly, each Bishop will take stock of what is happening in his own diocese concerning the electoral process. Subsequently, "a common understanding will emerge. They will focus on concerns such as the (Electronic) Voting Machines; the electoral register -achievements and failures of this development and so on. It is on the basis of all these matters that pastoral recommendations will be made at the end of the meeting.
What do the Bishops have to say on the question of the Congolese Opposition political parties?
After their Geneva meeting in Switzerland, the Congolese Opposition signed an agreement on 11 November 2018, designating Martin Fayulu as the opposition's joint candidate for the presidential election of 23 December 2018. The agreement was shattered in just 24 hours after the signing as Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, withdrew their signatures.
It is not the role of the Bishops to put forward or indicate a strategy for the Opposition.
How would you then characterise the role of the Bishops in this election?
The Congolese Bishops are here to help ensure that the fundamentals of a credible (electoral) organisation are taken into account in the Congolese context. They invite each political actor to assume his or her responsibilities vis-à-vis national commitments. The Bishops stress that the most important thing for the Congolese people is to know what attitude to adopt and how to conduct themselves so that these elections restore power back to the people.
Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo do not intend to abandon the Congolese people. The Bishops are on the side of the people, whom they also invite to remain engaged with the process.
The Bishops have never pretended to take the place of politicians. As Shepherds, they have however said they will never cross their arms and will never be silent whenever they can do something in the sense of improving the living conditions of the Congolese people. In the context of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this necessarily involves the consolidation of democracy