Congo’s religious leaders urge security for November general elections

KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) — Congolese religious leaders expressed worries that November’s general elections could be marred by violence, and they called on the international community to ensure optimal security for people and ballots after the polls.

“We fear turbulent, rather than peaceful elections,” said a mid-August statement signed by eight religious leaders, including Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola of Tshumbe, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference. Other signatories included the legal representative of the Islamic community in the Congo and a broad range of Christian churches, including the Orthodox Church, the Salvation Army, the Kimbanguist Church, the Church of Christ and the Church of the Awakening.

The statement was signed by hand, on each of its 11 pages, by each signatory, underlining the broad support it has received. The elections are only the second general elections since independence in 1960; the last largely successful election was in 2006.

Earlier this year, Catholic bishops expressed concerns about political developments that could destabilize the country, including the ruling party’s hasty amendment of the constitution to eliminate a second round of elections, even in cases where a first round does not produce an outright majority. In the August statement, the religious leaders said that their fears of disturbances have led them to speak out in an effort to prevent violence.

“To be silent now would be just to be accomplices of possible disturbances and an ensuing catastrophe for the country,” the statement read. “Our intervention is in the spirit of avoiding unhappy outcomes that will profit no one but only lead to a spiral of violence.”