Churches seek to strengthen electoral process in Democratic Republic of Congo

(Photo: REUTERS /Peter Jones)A man gives a demo in a tractor at the launch of an agricultural business park in Kinshasa, July 15, 2014. Democratic Republic of Congo has launched its first agricultural business park, the initial step in a plan to use its vast tracts of arable land to produce food, create jobs and wean the economy off its dependence on mining.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, one of Africa's biggest countries, needs to have a peaceful and legitimate electoral process to serve its society, church leaders have said at a meeting in the capital Kinshasa.

It "is a prerequisite for ensuring political stability and human rights in our country," said Rev. Micheline Kamba, a member of the executive committee of the World Council of Churches.

"It is our vocation, as churches and faith-based organizations, to work for peace and prevent violence by all means.

"I invite the wider ecumenical family to accompany our churches in DRC as they prepare and engage in elections," said Kamba.

She was speaking at a meeting seeking to strengthen democratic governance and the electoral process in the DRC held in the Congolese capital from December 8 to 10.

DRC is the second largest country in Africa by area and the 11th largest in the world, with a population of more than 75 million. Although it is mineral rich, the country has had a turbulent history since its independence from Belgium in 1960.

The gathering was organized by the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in partnership with the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, the WCC said in a statement.

"The 2011 post-electoral troubles have been a destabilizing factor for DRC, as well as the wider region," said Peter Prove, director of the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

"It is important that the global ecumenical family accompanies member churches in DRC in their peace-building efforts and initiatives related to the electoral process, as an expression of the pilgrimage of justice and peace."

The Kinshasa meeting promoted collaboration among churches and ecumenical organizations in the DRC to raise awareness regarding local and municipal elections in 2015.

These will lead to presidential elections in 2016.

The participants agreed on a roadmap for the ECC and the WCC member churches in the DRC that will be implemented in the lead-up to the elections.

They held the gathering after a visit from WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit to the DRC in April.

That visit resulted in the establishment of an informal ecumenical working to work on the electoral process, management of natural resources, gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, human rights and humanitarian initiatives, as well as youth issues.

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