Lungu fears Congo election crisis may spread into Zambia

President Edgar Lungu has expressed fear that the outcome of the December 2018 Congo DRC elections might be endangered by the lack of an all inclusive electoral process.

And President Lungu has further expressed fear that if something went wrong in Congo DRC, there will be an influx of refugees in all of its nine neighbouring countries.

This came to light after a delegation of DRC Conference of Catholic Bishops paid a courtesy call on President Lungu at State House on Monday and highlighted their worries and fears ahead of that country’s elections this year.

In welcoming the delegation which was led by conference vice chairperson Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, President Lungu in his capacity as SADC Chair for Defence, Politics and Security, assured the team that he would engage other organ members on the steps of creating confidence in DRC’s electoral process.

“I am aware that you have been wanting to come a long time ago but for some reasons am told you couldn’t come because I have been busy, but all the same I would like to welcome you. As you know DRC is a very good neighbour of ours [and] when things go wrong there, we are affected like many others and we think we are affected immensely ourselves,” said President Lungu.

“I have shared this concern with President Kabila and he has assured me that all is well but it’s good to hear all the sides. I met him recently in Namibia at the SADC meeting, he again assured me that all is well [and that] elections will be held as scheduled. But going by the media reports you get the impression that all might not be well because of the issue of abrogating some of the December 2016 agreements where you had agreed on certain parameters.”

DRC Conference of Catholic Bishops secretary general Bishop Donatien Nshole Basula highlighted to President Lungu through an interpreter Guy Kapembwa Kotati, on some of the challenges that his country was facing.

“When we are here, it means that something is abnormal in our country. We are catholic church composed of bishops who are pastors representing our people who are suffering. It is from that suffering that our people have experienced for about a decade, that the church – looking at the obstacles in our politics – plays an important role. The last role that the church played was during the Inter-Congolese dialogue in 2016 which brought the sent investor agreement and this agreement gave the hope to all the Congolese that this time we are going to come out of the political crisis. Unfortunately we lost one year and that agreement was not operational. After pressure from both external and internal, a date for the elections was announced,” Bishop Basula said.

He said his country’s electoral body had revealed that the incumbent Joseph Kabila was no longer eligible as candidate.

“The committee on elections tried to respect the calendar on their agenda. We can say for now [that] things are moving in the right direction. We record the positive situation that we are saluting among them is the enrolment of voters, the call of candidates to be presented at the same committee and one of the important aspect was to know that President Kabila was not a candidate. From that time, the country learnt that we are going to the democratic change for the first time. Since then we are worried that is why we are here. From the time the president said he is no longer a candidate, there are many actions in power which he is doing which provoke the worry in us, which give fear or doubt if elections will really take place,” Bishop Basula further complained.

And updating the media soon after a meeting between President Lungu and the Congolese delegation of Bishops, State House Press Aide Amos Chanda said the president was going to make a presentation to SADC member states on the challenges faced by Congo.

“In summary I will tell you that His Excellency the President has noted with concern that the process is not as inclusive as it should be and he has expressed fear that the outcome might be endangered by the complaints of lack of an all inclusive process, exclusion of certain candidates particularly candidates Bemba, candidate Katumbi and CR former prime ministers. So he says working with SADC he is going to make a presentation to other members of SADC on the steps that should help create more confidence in the electoral process so that the outcome is free, fair and universally accepted so that we forestall possible protests, possible grievances that can undermine the outcome and therefore create a situation of instability,” Chanda said.

Chanda said the President expressed fear that if anything was to happen in Congo, there would be an influx of refugees.

“He has acknowledged the sovereignty of the DRC but he has also stressed that Congo was so integral, so critical to the regional stability that if something went wrong there, there will be an influx of refugees in all of its nine neighbours. So he is going to escalate this to other members of SADC. They (Bishops) came to meet him in his capacity as Chairman of the organ of Defence, Politics and Security,” said Chanda.

Meanwhile the Bishops in also summarising their meeting with President Lungu to the media pointed out the incarceration of major opposition political parties ahead of the December elections.

“As you know the conference on Bishops in DRC are very much involved in political and social situations. They are involved not like political actors but as pastors besides their people. They are not interested on the political power but on the wellbeing of the population who are in their charge. According to the current situation, the Bishops Conference believe only in the organisation of credible elections fear free and inclusive elections which can bring peace to be a solution to this Congo crisis. We came to share this with SADC because we believe that SADC can accompany the Congolese people to come up with credible elections. The main worry is the problem of political prisoners, the political leaders who are still living in exile and also the exclusion of some major opposition leaders who are out of the electoral process, the termination of using that vote machinery without the consensus of other stakeholders,” said Bishop Basula.

“The conference would like SADC to get involved and help follow up those measures to obtain the inclusivity of the elections, the election where all major actors will be involved and to guarantee the security of election observers during that period. We are happy that the Zambian president took those measures serious and promised, according to his mandate in the SADC, to share this worry with his colleagues in the hope that Congo will be helped to organise credible elections.”

         

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