RC Church in Democratic Republic of Congo censured over observers

11 January 2019

REUTERS

The Congolese joint opposition presidential candidate, Martin Fayulu, at a press conference in Kinshasa, on Tuesday

The Congolese joint opposition presidential candidate, Martin Fayulu, at a press conference in Kinshasa, on Tuesday

THE result of the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is at odds with the conclusions of the Roman Catholic Church’s observers, it was claimed this week.

On Thursday, the Electoral Commission (CENI) announced that the opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had won the vote on 30 December.

The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told CNews: “We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite to what we expected. The Catholic Church of Congo did its tally and announced completely different results.”

Before announcing the result, the Electoral Commission accused the Church of  “preparing an insurrection” by claiming that there was a clear winner of the elections (News, 4 January).

On Thursday of last week, Fr Donatien Nshole, the secretary-general of the RC National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), said that its election-observer team “observes that the figures in its possession from polling stations’ vote-tallies reveal the choice of one candidate as president of the republic. . .

“We call on the CENI . . . to publish, with all responsibility, the results of the election that respect truth and justice.”

In a letter seen by Reuters, the President of the Commission, Corneille Nangaa, wrote to the President of CENCO, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa: “The announcement of voting trends by Priest Nshole is likely to brainwash the population while preparing an insurrection that CENCO alone will be responsible for.”

His comments violated electoral law and a code of conduct signed by poll monitors agreeing that only CENI had the authority to announce results, Mr Nangaa said.

Although Fr Nshole declined to name the candidate, it has been reported that two diplomats briefed on vote tallies collected by CENCO observers indicated that another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, had won. 

Mr Fayulu told Radio France Internationale that an  “electoral coup” had taken place.

The RC Church deployed 1026 long-term observers and 40,000 short-term observers across the country. They reported a number of problems: the vote had been delayed at hundreds of polling stations, many of which were held at “prohibited places”; machines had malfunctioned; and, in 115 stations, observers had been kicked out of polling stations or not allowed access.

On Monday, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, condemned the shut-down of the internet, which had been in place since the day of the election.

“A general network shutdown is in clear violation of international law, and cannot be justified by any means,” he said. “Access to information is crucial for the credibility of the ongoing electoral process. . . Shutdowns are damaging not only for people’s access to information, but also for their access to basic services”.

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