On 23rd December, 40 million Congolese citizens will go to the polls to elect a new president, 500 members of the national assembly and 715 members of provincial parliaments. The country’s people are anxiously awaiting the poll, which has already been postponed several times.
On 13th December, 8,000 electronic voting machines, intended for polling stations in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, were destroyed following a fire in the depot where they were being kept. It has yet to be determined whether the fire was deliberate or accidental – but it provides an additional obstacle to the smooth running of the elections. At the end of November, the episcopal conference expressed its concerns over the delays in the polls – which were originally scheduled for November 2016.
A dark climate
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Bernard-Emmanuel Kasanda of Mjujimayi, stressed the uncertainty surrounding the present situation. “We have a lot of questions,” he said. “We do not know what tomorrow will bring”.
Bishop Kasanda reaffirmed that the Church did not back any particular candidate in the presidential elections. In a message sent to Catholic candidates for the upcoming elections, he wrote: “The Catholic Church is on the side of the small, the weak, the marginalized, the abandoned. But the Church is not a political party and does not support any particular candidate – but it calls for social projects to be preserved.”
Elections postponed several times
On 14th December, Michèle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “expressed her deep concern over the violence perpetrated this week against opposition supporters in at least three provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, less than 10 days before general elections, ” according to the UN’s information website.
The general election has been postponed several times. The last election was December 2011. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila who, having succeeded his father Laurent-Désiré, has been in power since January 2001, is expected to retire after the poll. He has remained in power despite his term of office ending on 19th December 2016.
Christine de Coudray, ACN head of DRC projects said: “For 26 years I have worked for ACN helping to support the suffering Church in the DRC. ACN is calling for prayers for a peaceful election. I have seen people desperately seeking for peace in the country for many years”.