President Edgar Lungu is concerned that the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not all-inclusive and that this could undermine the outcome of the polls slated for December. Mr Lungu was speaking at State House yesterday when he met the Council of Catholic Bishops of DRC who brought concerns of the Church concerning the electoral process.
President Lungu is chairperson for Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika organ on politics, defence and security. “When things go wrong in DRC, we will all be affected. Zambia will immensely be affected. President Kabila has assured me that all is well, but from the media reports we are getting, all might not be well. It is good that you [Bishops] have come so that I hear from the other side,” President Lungu
Zambia currently hosts about 46,000 Congolese refugees who are fleeing their country because of internal tension. Council of Catholic Bishops of the DRC Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo appealed to President Edgar Lungu to ensure the planned December 23 elections in that country are inclusive to forestall political instability.
Archbishop Ambongo said the Bishops are worried that the electoral process so far seems not inclusive and may result in some people rejecting the outcome. “We are here because we are worried with the current happenings in our country. Some candidates have been excluded and this may result in others rejecting the outcome, so we would like SADC to get involved and ensure inclusiveness of all major actors,” Archbishop Ambongo said.
The Archbishop was accompanied by secretary general of the Council of Catholic Bishops of DRC Donatien Nshobe.
Archbishop Ambongo said the Church is concerned that there are still political prisoners while others are in exile, with some like Moise Katumbi, Jean-Pierre Bemba and three others being excluded from contesting the polls. The current DRC President Joseph Kabila is not contesting the elections. He said the lack of inclusiveness may result in the rejection of the outcome of the polls, thereby plunging the Congo into further chaos.
“We [the Bishops] are very much involved in the social political life of our country not as actors but as pastors speaking on behalf of the suffering masses,” the Archbishop said.
He said the Congolese want a credible election. Ministers of Foreign Affairs Joseph Malanji, National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili and Defence Davies Chama attended the meeting. President Lungu later went into a closed-door meeting with the Bishops.
Briefing journalists after the closed-door meeting, special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda, said Mr Lungu is concerned that the process is not inclusive.
“The Bishops met President Lungu in his capacity as chairperson of SADC organ on politics, defence and security. “Congo is very integral to the stability of the SADC, so President Lungu wants free and fair elections,” Mr Chanda said.
Meanwhile, Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes executive director Boniface Cheembe says the visit by Congolese Catholic Bishops is a sign of the confidence they have in Zambia’s ability to resolve conflicts.
“SACCORD commends the Congolese bishops for being open about the troubles in their country,” Mr Cheembe said.
He appealed to Zambians to support President Lungu’s contribution to the African continent.