The Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax has hailed the Independent National Electoral Commission (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante-CENI) of the Democratic Republic of Congo for publishing, and the continued steps in operationalizing the Electoral Calendar.
According to the Electoral Calendar, CENI has set 23rdDecember 2018 as the date for holding elections, with political campaigns opening a month before the elections as stipulated by the laws governing elections in the DRC.
Speaking during her two-day mission to the DRC, Dr Tax said she was optimistic that, with the commitment shown by the different stakeholders, elections will be held as planned, and for that to happen, all stakeholders must work together and support the electoral process.
H.E. Dr Tax said it was gratifying to note that the Government of DRC under the leadership of His Excellency President Joseph Kabila Kabange, and the efforts and professionalism demonstrated by CENI, necessary steps are ongoing in a bid to ensure that elections are held as planned, and in a peaceful, credible and transparent manner. The Chairperson of CENI, Mr Corneille Nangaa, informed the SADC Executive Secretary that on 31st January, 2018 the Electoral Commission completed voter registration exercise, where an estimated 46 Million voters were registered and that soon the Commission will embark on cleaning of the voters roll.
H.E Dr Tax commended CENI for the progress it has made in the preparations for the elections, citing voter registration, passing of the Electoral Bill and development of the voting system as important steps. With regards to the voters’ system, Dr. Tax noted CENI’s plan to conduct voter training and mass awareness on the new voting system as critical to the enhancement of voters' confidence and effective participation in the electoral process.
The Executive Secretary also appealed to all stakeholders to exercise impartiality in their undertakings, noting that violent conflict inflicts pain on the lives of ordinary Congolese, who may not have the means and capacity to protect themselves and cope with the negative impact of conflict. In this regard, H.E. Dr Tax recognized the significant and positive role to be played by the National Episcopal Conference of the DRC (Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo-CENCO) in ensuring peace and tranquility in the DRC.
The Executive Secretary encouraged CENCO to play its rightful role as an evangelical and impartial body that is expected to, among others, discourage violence and contribute to peace in the DRC. Recognizing freedom of expression and demonstration, Dr Tax called upon all Congolese and other stakeholders to put the interests of Congolese first, abide by the law, and solve differences amicably and peacefully,
On the role of SADC in the DRC, H.E Dr Tax reaffirmed the commitment of SADC to support the DRC, and informed that the SADC Liaison Office in Kinshasa is set to be open in March, 2018, to facilitate effective discharge of SADC Regional Cooperation activities in the DRC in a bid to support the DRC address security and political situation.
During the mission to the DRC, the Executive Secretary was accompanied by the Director of Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs at the SADC Secretariat, Mr Jorge Cardoso, and also supported by SADC Organ Troika Ambassadors accredited to the DRC namely; His Excellency Jose Manuel of Angola, His Excellency Retired Lieutenant General Paul Mella of Tanzania and His Excellency Friday Muyalike of Zambia.