Congo’s Catholic church says ‘enlist and vote’ as election season looms

By Paul Lorgerie

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Half means via his homily, Father Victor Ntambwe brandished his voter card in entrance of the congregation in Saint Charles Lwanga church in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital.

With presidential elections simply months away, he had an earthly message to ship alongside the psalms and the sermon. He instructed the worshippers to observe his lead, maintain up their playing cards and present they’d registered.

“If we don’t register to vote, we may have the authorities we deserve, but when we enlist and vote, we will maintain them to account,” he instructed Reuters after Sunday’s service.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Catholic church has a protracted historical past of selling democracy within the huge African nation the place organising elections has been sophisticated by monetary and logistical issues, and the place disputes over vote tampering have incessantly induced widespread unrest.

As soon as once more, the church is gearing as much as monitor elections scheduled for December by which President Felix Tshisekedi will search a second time period in workplace.

Preparations are underway simply as Congo, house to 45 million Catholics – probably the most of any African nation – prepares for the arrival subsequent week of Pope Francis, the primary papal go to since 1985.

Within the many years since, Congo, whose huge mineral wealth has attracted funding from a few of the world’s largest firms, has been swept up in a myriad of simmering conflicts which have price the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Amid the chaos, the Catholic church deployed 1000’s of observers throughout the nation earlier than and through voting. Typically, as was the case within the 2018 polls, its tallies – trusted by hundreds of thousands – have clashed with official outcomes, elevating considerations of fraud.

“The church has an obligation to denounce what’s fallacious with society,” Ntambwe stated.


Throughout Congo, the Catholic church is already in election mode. Abbots in Kinshasa are encouraging congregants to take part. The church has erected road banners urging folks to enrol.

This yr, for the primary time, the Nationwide Episcopal Convention of Congo (CENCO) has partnered up with the Church of Christ of Congo (ECC), a union of 64 Protestant and Evangelical denominations.

In a classroom of the Business Technical Institute in Kinshasa’s Ngaliema district, dozens of individuals crammed out voter registration kinds final week, the primary space of the nation to take action.

It was a protracted wait and a few needed to come again a second day to be registered.

“The machines commonly have issues,” stated one man who had been ready all day.

Geared up with a ebook and a cap with the CENCO brand, Nancy Makola took notes. She is considered one of 600 accredited observers overseeing the registration course of, a quantity that may seemingly swell into the tens of 1000’s when voting will get underway in December.

“I’m the eyes to look at and the mouth to make remarks,” stated Makola, a journalist by coaching.

Makola visited 15 registration centres over the previous month. She has considerations. The police denied her entry when she returned to some centres, she stated. A police spokesman didn’t reply to a name looking for remark.

Machine malfunctions have been frequent, Makola added, a element she later reported to CENCO at their headquarters.

Primarily based on this and greater than 1,500 different observer reviews, CENCO and the ECC on Thursday really useful that the election fee, CENI, prolong the registration deadline.

CENI acknowledged that some registration centres weren’t functioning correctly, with out elaborating. It prolonged the deadline on Sunday by 25 days, till Feb. 17.

For Reverend Nsenga Nshimba, the Secretary Common of the ECC, the observations made in the course of the first section of registrations will stop issues elsewhere.

“So as to not have a slip, we should study the teachings of this primary space,” he stated.

(Reporting by Paul Lorgerie; Enhancing by Edward McAllister and Vin Shahrestani)

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