Catholic Church urges DRC citizens to vote as election looms

Halfway through his homily, Father Victor Ntambwe brandished his voter card in front of the congregation at St Charles Lwanga Church in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic

Republic of the Congo (DRC). With presidential elections just months away, he had an earthly message to deliver alongside the psalms and the sermon. He told the worshippers

to follow his lead, hold up their cards and show they had registered. “If we do not register to vote, we will have the authorities we deserve, but if we enlist and vote, we

can hold them to account,” he told the Reuters news agency after Sunday’s service. The Catholic Church has a long history of promoting democracy in the vast African country

where organising elections has been complicated by financial and logistical problems, and disputes over vote tampering have frequently caused widespread unrest. Once again,

the church is gearing up to monitor elections scheduled for December, in which President Felix Tshisekedi will seek a second term in office. Preparations are under way just

as the DRC – home to 45 million Catholics, the most of any African country – prepares for the arrival next week of Pope Francis, its first papal visit since 1985. In the

decades since, the DRC, whose vast mineral wealth has attracted investment from some of the world’s largest companies, has been swept up in a myriad of simmering conflicts that

have killed millions of people. During this chaos, the Catholic Church deployed thousands of observers across the country before and during voting. Sometimes, as was the

case in the 2018 polls, its tallies – trusted by millions – have differed with official results, raising concerns of fraud.