Halfway through his homily, Father Victor Ntambwe brandished his voter card in front of the congregation in Saint Charles Lwanga church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DR Congo) capital.
With presidential elections just months away, he had an earthly message to deliver alongside the psalms and the sermon. He told the worshipers 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 Reuters after Sunday’s service.
DR Congo’s Catholic Church has a long history of promoting democracy in the vast African country where organizing elections has been complicated by financial and logistical problems, and where disputes over vote tampering have frequently caused widespread unrest.
Once again, the church is gearing up to monitor elections scheduled for December, in which Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi is to seek a second term in office.
Preparations are under way just as DR Congo, home to 45 million Catholics — the most of any African country — prepares for the arrival next week of Pope Francis, the first papal visit since 1985.
In the decades since, DR Congo, 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 cost the lives of millions of people.
Amid the 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 clashed with official results, raising concerns of fraud.
“The church has a duty to denounce what is wrong with society,” Ntambwe said.
Across DR Congo, the Catholic Church is already in election mode. Abbots in Kinshasa are encouraging congregants to participate. The church has erected street banners urging people to enrol.
This year, for the first time, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) has partnered up with the Church of Christ of Congo, a union of 64 Protestant and Evangelical denominations.
In a classroom of the Commercial Technical Institute in Kinshasa’s Ngaliema district, dozens of people filled out voter registration forms last week, the first area of the country to do so.
It was a long wait and some had to come back a second day to be registered.
“The machines regularly have problems,” said one man who had been waiting all day.
Equipped with a book and a cap with the CENCO logo, Nancy Makola took notes. She is one of 600 accredited observers overseeing the registration process, a number that would likely swell into the tens of thousands when voting gets under way in December.
“I am the eyes to observe and the mouth to make remarks,” said Makola, a journalist by training.
Sitting in a lotus position, four men weave glittering beads through gold thread on an organza sheet, carefully constructing a wedding dress that would soon wow crowds at Paris Fashion Week. For once, the French couturier behind the design, Julien Fournie, is determined to put these craftsmen in the spotlight. His new collection, which showed in Paris on Tuesday, was entirely made with fabrics from Mumbai. He said that a sort of “design imperialism” means that French fashion houses often play down that their fabrics are made outside France. “The houses which don’t admit it are perhaps afraid of losing their clientele,” Fournie
A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot contravened the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested in August last year. The law covers the king, queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for
A gunman killed 10 people and wounded 10 others at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect in the latest mass shooting tragedy in an American community. Captain Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said Sunday that the wounded were taken to hospitals and their conditions range from stable to critical. He said the 10 people died at the scene in the city of Monterey Park. Meyer said people were “pouring out of the location screaming” when officers arrived at around 10:30 pm Saturday. He said officers then
INSTABILITY: The country has seen a 33 percent increase in land that cultivates poppies since the military took over the government in 2021, a UN report said The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by one-third in the past year, as eradication efforts have dropped and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, a UN report released yesterday showed. Last year, the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, saw a 33 percent increase in Myanmar’s cultivation area to 40,100 hectares, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report said. “Economic, security and governance disruptions