May 22, 2012 (CISA ) -The Southern African Catholic Bishops have volunteered to act as election observers in the upcoming elections in several countries across the region, a statement sent to CISA said. The bishops feel that much is at stake in some of the countries that face elections this year. They expressed that election violence, intimidation and reprisals as some of their major concerns.The bishops belong to the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) which brings together the Catholic Bishops from across nine countries; South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Sao Tome & Principe, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Bishop Frank Nubuasah of Francistown, Botswana and President of IMBISA said: “We call on the governments in the region planning elections to guarantee conditions that ensure elections are free, fair and peaceful. We have seen in our communities how violence and insecurity affect the everyday lives of ordinary people, denying them much needed development and the ability to lead fulfilled lives.”
The Bishops said that it is the duty of all governments and political parties to create and maintain peace before, during and after the elections. They called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to be active in ensuring that the SADC principles and guidelines on the conduct of elections are fully respected. Bishop Nubuasah said “Elections are a challenging time and as witnesses on the ground, our hope is that our governments will respect these guidelines, so that the lives and dignity of each and every individual can be respected.
“The Church prays continuously for the region as we are called to act in solidarity and work towards the strengthening of democracy. We cannot afford to step backwards on the achievements we have made so far,” he said.
The bishop’s statement added, “As the bishops of IMBISA we are concerned that while the southern African region has scored many developmental achievements, there are still major obstacles to the democratization of the region.”
“We are concerned that electoral processes in our region have not yet reached a stage where they can be regarded as fully respecting the lives and dignity of each and every individual. Neither are they conducted in the spirit of the common good, fraternal solidarity and the option for those who are impoverished and marginalized by our political, economic and social systems,” said the bishops.
“The African Union and the Southern African Development Community have made commendable efforts towards these goals. They have grappled with the need to build democratic institutions, processes and social cultures…”they said. The Catholic Bishops of the IMBISA region also made a commitment to participate in the democratization of the electoral systems in the region. “We believe the church can contribute through its values to the strengthening of the region’s electoral processes,” they said