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Congo Church Appeals for Dialogue in Election Dispute

Veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is seen at his residence in Kinshasa, Congo, June 2006. (file photo)

Father Abbot Leonard Santedi says the Church is ready to help in the search for post-election peace and stability

The Elections commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, also known as CENI, is expected to release results for provincial constituencies from the November 28 elections Wednesday and publish the complete national results on January 26.

The commission postponed tallying the final results after the opposition and the international community criticized the process as flawed.

President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi have both been inaugurated after claiming victory.

The country’s Roman Catholic Church added its voice by calling on CENI to re-evaluate and correct what it called “serious errors” in the elections.

Father Abbot Leonard Santedi, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the church is also calling on the government and the opposition to begin a dialogue as a way of bringing post-election peace and stability to Congo.

“The Bishops’ Conference said that the election had many irregularities so that the results published were not credible. So, they asked the electoral commission first of all, to correct some mistakes and to say that if they (CENI) cannot correct the results, to resign. This is for us the best way for the peace in our country,” he said.

Father Santedi said the Bishops’ Conference also asked the Congolese parliament to reconsider the composition of the electoral commission to include people from civil society.

He said the Church is ready to help in the search for peace, but added CENI has yet to respond to the bishops’ recommendations.

“We hope that they can give an answer tomorrow or after tomorrow, and the Church is ready to give its help to look for the best way for peace in our country because right now we have no peace,” he said.

President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi have both claimed victory and have been inaugurated in separate ceremonies.

Father Santedi said it is not the church’s place to say whether President Kabila or Tshisekedi was the legitimate winner of the November elections.

But he said the church, which fielded a large observation team during the November poll, found many irregularities.

“Unfortunately, we can’t say whether it was Kabila or it was Tshisekedi, but we have found so many irregularities so that we asked the government to see what position they can take to fix the irregularities and what way they can follow to make dialogue with the opposition,” he said.

Father Santedi said only after the government and the opposition shall have dialogued can the church say who really won the November election.