A powerful coalition of Congolese religious, civil society and opposition party leaders, united under the CLC (Lay Coordinating Committee) continue their demands for free and fair elections in 2018. The CLC has organized three nationwide peaceful demonstrations since December 31, 2017 to protest the government’s failure to abide by the terms of the 2016 New Year’s Eve Agreement. The agreement called on President Joseph Kabila to acknowledge that he is beyond his constitutionally allowed term and to publicly state that he will not seek re-election. It also called for release of political prisoners, return of exiled political leaders, and freedom of speech for media. None of these conditions have been met.
The government has responded to the peaceful demonstrations with intimidation and violence. At least 17 people have been killed, many more wounded, and over 400 people have been arbitrarily arrested.
An election is scheduled for December 23, 2018. The CLC and international election experts have grave concerns about the integrity of the election process. Specifically:
· The national electoral commission has purchased voting machines for use in the election. The voting machines are vulnerable to hacking.
· Irregularities have been discovered in the voter registration polls, with the addition of 8 million voters registered without the required fingerprinting.
Candidates for president must file with the national electoral commission by July 24. Although a high-ranking government official announced that Joseph Kabila will not run, signs in the country prove otherwise. Posters and ads for Joseph Kabila have appeared in recent days.
The CLC has appealed to the African Union for support. They have vowed to continue large-scale, peaceful protests if President Joseph Kabila refuses to leave power. May those in power listen to the peaceful, persistent and hopeful voices of the people.