By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
Currently, the ‘’Independent National Electoral Commission ” (CENI), which will organize presidential and legislative elections in 2023 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is headed by Dénis Kadima, a personality considered close to President Tshisekedi by the opposition political, by several citizen structures and by some churches including the “Catholic Church” and “the Church of Christ in Congo”.
Faced with this situation, these structures have taken actions and continue to do so in order to require the departure of the current president of this electoral center.
According to them, the President of the Republic politicized the Electoral Commission which, however, is independent.
For its part, on the other hand, the presidential camp rejects in block these accusations and invites the opposition to get involved in the preparation of the elections which must take place within the constitutional deadline.
The DRC’s National Assembly voted on Saturday, October 16, 2021, to appoint Denis Kadima Kazadi as head of the CENI amid protest and incomprehension.
The man, proposed by the “ Electoral Civil Society ” and by the “ Kimbanguist Church ”, was appointed and invested, on October 22, by a presidential ordinance with 11 other members of the presidential majority, leaving 3 seats to an opposition which continues to protest.
In his recent State of the Nation speech to the National Assembly and Senate in congress on December 13, President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo confirmed that these elections would be held within the constitutional deadline.
The Head of State had, on this occasion, urged the opposition to quickly send its representatives to the Electoral Commission.
Before him, it was Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lokonde who, defending the 2022 budget, had already mentioned this situation.
“Our government has already set aside, as part of this year’s savings, 200 billion Congolese francs ($ 100 million) out of an initial forecast of 90 billion, for fiscal year 2021. And for fiscal year 2022, we have aligned, 500 billion FC (250 million dollars) to allow us to cover the expenses related to the electoral process. We expect from the office which was recently installed, a concrete plan which will allow us to start the electoral operations”, he declared.
Marches and Walking’s to protest…
Since the appointment of the new leaders of the Electoral Commission, the political opposition (recently constituted as a “ Patriotic Bloc ” bringing together the LAMUKA platform of Martin Fayulu, main opponent and the Common Front for the Congo of former President Joseph Kabila), citizen structures, civil society actors … organized several protest marches not only in Kinshasa, the capital, but also in several provinces of the country.
In November and December 2021, six marches were organized, two of which were repressed by the police in Kinshasa.
“Denis Kadima should not lead the Election Commission. We saw in 2018 how the politicized Commission proclaimed a president who was not actually elected. This scenario is likely to happen again in 2023. We demand the depoliticization of the electoral center by excluding Kadima and his team who are close to the current president ”, Jeannine Munganga, coordinator, in Kikwit, of New Impetus, one of the opposition political parties, declared during the last march in December 2021.
She said other actions will always be organized to achieve the expected goal.
Similar marches, for the same cause, were also organized, during the same period, by members of the “Protestant Lay Ministry”, of the “Commission for the Lay Catholic Apostolate in Congo” as well as by the “Lay Coordinating Committee”, all structures of Catholic and Protestant churches.
Sit-ins and Sit-ins…
Other actions also include ‘’ Sit-ins ’’ organized by the opposition and some citizen structures including the ’Fight for Change’ (LUCHA).
In the country, these sit-ins took place on November 22 at the offices of the “Electoral Commission” in several provinces, except in Kinshasa the capital, because a strong presence of the police had surrounded the central office of the concerned commission.
For its part, LUCHA held its sit-in at the “People’s Palace”, the seat of parliament last October.
Another anti-politicization action relating to the Election Commission concerns contacts that LAMUKA, one of the opposition platforms, even with international organizations that can react to change the situation.
For example on Wednesday October 13, 2021 in Brussels, this matter was at the heart of discussions between a delegation from LAMUKA and the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.
The platform announces that it will continue with these pleas in the upcoming days.
A few days ago, the former Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala, warned of the risks of “troubles”, if President Félix Tshisekedi does not withdraw his order for the appointment of Denis Kadima, electoral expert, at the head of the Electoral Commission whose designation had not been approved by the Catholic and Protestant religious denominations which chair the platform of religious denominations in the DRC.
Credible ballots in 2023
Voices are raised from time to time to demand credible elections when the time comes.
“It is time for the government of the Republic and the Electoral Commission to consider constructive criticism emanating from the opposition and from the citizen structures in order to get a good election. We require credible elections in 2023”, Patrice Muntuko, one of the human rights activists in the DRC says.
Same story for several churches including the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ in Congo.
This will be the fourth time that this country of 26 provinces will organize this event after that of 2006, 2011 and 2018 in a backdrop of protests.
These elections are being prepared during a context characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity in the eastern part of the country.
“From a security point of view, the proliferation of active armed groups estimated at nearly 122 continues to sow prolonged insecurity, particularly in the eastern region of the country where the United Nations Joint Office for Human Rights Man “has recorded at least 2,945 civilians killed, including 553 women and 286 children during the year 2020”, the “Group of study on the Congo» indicates in a recent report.