Catholics criticise DR Congo poll

13 January 2012 Last updated at 04:28 GMT

Metropolitan Archbishop Cardinal Mosengo (C-back) listens to Bishop Satendi (L) as he reads a statement, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Kinshasa on January 12 2012The Catholic Church had a network of observers during the election

Catholic bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo have denounced elections in November which re-elected President Joseph Kabila.

A statement from 35 bishops complains of “treachery, lies and terror” and calls on the election commission to correct “serious errors”.

Last week, the archbishop of Kinshasa called for a campaign of disobedience and for the results to be annulled.

The poll was heavily criticised by foreign observers and the opposition.

International observers said the elections – in which more than 18,000 candidates contested 500 parliamentary seats – suffered from widespread irregularities.

However, despite the allegations, incumbent Joseph Kabila was declared the winner by the Supreme Court and inaugurated in December.

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi rejected Mr Kabila’s victory and held his own swearing-in ceremony.

The full results of the ballot have not yet been released.

The Catholic Church – which holds considerable influence in the overwhelmingly Christian nation – had the largest network of independent observers during the election.

“The electoral commission [must] have the courage to correct [these] serious errors or resign,” the Catholic bishops council said in a statement read out at a special service in the capital’s largest cathedral.

“We cannot build a state in a culture of treachery, lies and terror, of militarisation and the flagrant violation of the freedom of expression,” added the statement, read out by secretary-general Abbot Leonard Santedi.

“The testimonies we collected from various dioceses and other sources point to an often chaotic electoral process.”

The bishops also spoke of “a climate of fear maintained in order to facilitate ballot-stuffing”, AFP reports.

Last week, Archbishop of Kinshasa Laurent Monsengwo said the results were illegitimate and called for non-violent marches to be held.

Western observers denounced the presidential results as seriously flawed, but the electoral commission – backed by the African Union – hailed the polls a success.

The elections were the first Congolese-organised polls since the end of a devastating war in 2003 that left millions dead.

An earlier poll in 2006 was organised under the auspices of the United Nations.

Mr Kabila has been president since 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent.

Inside DR Congo
size map

The Democratic Republic of Congo covers 2,344,858 square km of land in the centre of Africa, making it the 12th largest country in the world.

mineral wealth map

DR Congo has abundant mineral wealth. It has more than 70% of the world’s coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the planet’s diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. This wealth however has attracted looters and fuelled the country’s civil war.
transport map

Despite the country’s size, transport infrastructure is very poor. Of 153,497km of roads, only 2,794km are paved. There are around 4,000 km of railways but much is narrow-gauge track and in poor condition. Waterways are vital to transport goods but journeys can take months to complete. Overcrowded boats frequently capsize, while DR Congo has more plane crashes than any other country.
population map

With an estimated population of 71 million, DR Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa. Some 35% of the population live in cities and the capital Kinshasa is by far the largest, with more than 8 million inhabitants. DR Congo has around 200 ethnic identities with the majority of people belonging to the Kongo, Luba and Mongo groups.
demographic map

Given its size and resources DR Congo should be a prosperous country, but years of war, corruption and economic mismanagement have left it desperately poor. In 2011 it lags far behind in many key development indicators, with average life expectancy increasing by only 2 years since 1980, after a period when it actually fell during the mid 1990s.