ICMICA-Pax Romana is a movement towards action to transform our living environments. I firmly believe that this transformation depends on our transformation as men, as women, as Christians, in order to become effectively the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Testimonies and exchanges about what we are experiencing and what we see are crucial moments in building this social transformation. I sincerely hope that this session will allow us to throw a seed for the improvement of the living conditions of the populations on our continent.
To be a Christian citizen or to witness to God’s love in our society.
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. (Mt 5:13-16).
The Eternal God wants to build a civilization of love, faith and hope. He knows us and it is he who has chosen us, who wishes to send us on a mission, and for this reason, he equips us with the capacities to accomplish this mission. From my point of view, as a Christian, I feed on God, his word, his presence, his spirit to transform my environment, to impact my friends, my colleagues, my parents and my brothers through my work, my actions, my speeches.
My first steps in civic engagement were forged at IMCS where, in the continuity of my Christian family and school education, I learned to solidify my faith and to develop the spiritual perspective as one of the foundations of my socio-political analyses. Christianity has allowed me to dispel fear, develop listening skills and sharpen my sense of observation in the service of peace and justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For the record, my commitment to peace and security in the Great Lakes region as president of IMCS-DRC a few years ago came after an exchange with an IMCS brother who became rebel leader in Ituri in northeastern DRC. The testimony of this brother, pointed out because, as a rebel leader, he had changed my perception of a dramatic situation that I was reading and seeing through the media. I had felt an obligation to be committed to these thousands of young people, and in particular to these child soldiers, innocent victims of a war whose dividends were only received in terms of political, economic and cultural influence in the Great Lakes region, in terms of the natural resources exploited or to be explored.
It is this commitment to peace in the DRC and the Great Lakes region that actively brings me into the electoral field of my country as a civil society leader, a human rights defender until ten years later I became a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission. I thank Father Rigobert Minani sj and the Bishops of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo for their support and particularly for their listening.
What are the main challenges of the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
The organization of elections is a complex process involving multiple actors over time and space aimed at the free, democratic and transparent choice of rulers by the governed. Its success depends on the qualitative involvement of stakeholders. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the main stakeholders in the electoral process are voters, candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the government, parliament and the courts and tribunals. The main challenges of the electoral process arise from the interaction of these actors, in particular:
1- The majority of voters have a poor perception of politics and elections. The DRC is 63% of voters between 18 and 35 years of age but also 78% of voters between 18 and 45 years of age. These young people lose interest in politics and political parties (601). However, they are victims of political manipulation and social networks with false information do not promote the construction of a solid and healthy political opinion. It is important to further extend citizenship education by enabling young people to better understand their rights and duties in order to become more socially engaged. Youth leadership must rehabilitate politics among young people, enable them to love it and encourage them to be candidates in the various elections. We encourage the various religious denominations to get involved since the majority of young people exercise their civic engagement as part of their religious belief. In the concrete field of elections, young people should be trained and informed to have a good understanding of the processes and procedures that guarantee the fundamental values of the voting act.
2- Electoral integrity is a concern for all stakeholders in the electoral process, but none of them make it a priority. The sincerity of the expression of voters’ votes and the acceptance of the results are major concerns in the conduct of elections in our countries. They determine the country’s governance after the elections, but they are generally the source of major political crises or armed conflicts. The independence, impartiality and neutrality of the CENI as well as the deployment of candidates’ witnesses and domestic and international election observation missions are presented as guarantees for the credibility of the elections and the acceptance of the results. In practice, in order to promote acceptance of the results, these factors are associated with electoral mediation in an attempt to contain electoral disputes and violence that occur during the electoral process. Electoral fraud is often perpetrated by candidates, but is generally attributed to the Electoral Commission. For the credibility of the elections, the CENI must face political interference during the electoral process, in particular:
– Attempts to recruit political party activists that may undermine the independence, neutrality, impartiality and transparency of the INEC. (About 500,000 BVD members)
– The installation of polling stations in establishments owned by political actors.
– The setting up of fictitious offices
– Misinformation, false news, rumours that could disrupt the electoral process up to major electoral conflicts.
– Multiple voting by using the vote by derogation of witnesses, election observers and journalists.
– Threats to the integrity of the results of elections following illegal and unlawful manipulation of polling station members.
– The disappearance or disorientation of polling and counting station envelopes
– Changes in the results of polling and counting stations in local results compilation centres.
– The publication of false election results, before and after the CENI. A principle is developing in Africa, an election won by the opposition is fair, democratic and credible, while an electoral victory for the incumbent president is likely to be considered unbelievable.
Financing of political parties and candidates for elections.
The intersection of private interests with national sovereignty. The citizens, marked by several years of dictatorship, procrastination of political actors, wars of armies without borders, and a war economy linked to the plundering of natural resources, repeated massacres in indifference, have difficulty building a common vision for the common good. The privatization of the state is a permanent threat. The candidates are in the conservation or conquest of power. For the candidate, the CENI is above all in favour or against his victory in the elections. If the CENI is in favour of it, it is credible. If it seems unfavourable to him, the CENI is not credible or rather, they try to control it by all means. Of course, everyone claims to be working in the interest of the people, while everyone thinks first of their own personal interests. The political class of the DRC has twice experienced electoral competition and emerged impoverished with no prospect of regaining its financial health before the next elections. Several conclude that these elections should be delayed as long as possible, until they have time to regain their financial health, especially since the re-election rate is very low in the country, around less than 30%. The multiplication of political stratagems to prevent the organisation of elections is therefore also part of this context, and CENI is therefore becoming the target to be shot down, if not the ideal scapegoat, or to be controlled, as the case may be. On the other hand, election financing is approached only as a means of financing the organization of elections or the financing of the CENI by omitting the financing of candidates and political parties which, if poorly managed, can set up systems of rigid, sustainable and harmful corruption for democracy in the country. It is clear that electoral reforms are needed, particularly for the financing of political parties and candidates, to build a country that takes into account the concerns of its citizens.
Jean Baptiste NDUNDU NSITUVILA is a Member of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in the Democratic Republic of Congo since June 2013,