Letter to U.S. Special Envoy Feingold on Possible Amendment to Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 16, 2014
October 16, 2014
Ambassador Russell Feingold
United States Special Envoy
African Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
United States State Department
2201 C Street
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Ambassador Feingold:
As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace I write to transmit a letter from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concerning the possibility that the DRC constitution, in particular Article 220, could be amended to allow the President to serve more than two terms. The bishops oppose any change to Article 220 and are clear that any such change would be “…a step backward on the road to building our democracy and would seriously undermine the harmonious future of the nation.”
The letter is addressed principally to the Congolese people to raise a concern that a constitutional amendment is a possibility. The Church also intends to mobilize the people to oppose a change. The Church has instructed all priests to read their statement at Sunday Mass, to educate people about this potential threat to democracy, and to lead them in three days of prayer.
As an additional act of opposition to government policies, the Church has suspended its participation in the Committee for Integrity and Electoral Mediation. The Church will contribute to the next elections through the work of its Peace and Justice Commission. As you may recall from the 2011 elections, the Church organized a nationwide electoral education campaign and an electoral monitoring infrastructure. The Church issued a report on the electoral process that was cited by many in the DRC and the international community. Prominent donors from the international community partnered with the Church in these efforts.
In May of this year Secretary of State Kerry called on President Kabila to respect the constitution and not run for a third term. As we are both painfully aware, Constitutions have been changed previously in other countries as a means to monopolize political power and a nation’s natural wealth. This political maneuver excludes political opposition and destroys the peaceful democratic process.
I urge you to take the Church’s letter and actions into consideration as you chart the future of U.S. policy towards the DRC in the run up to the next elections. I hope you will explore ways to support Church efforts to ensure that the DRC Government serves the common good by preserving the integrity of Article 220 of the Constitution. I strongly recommend that you work with the Church to support their electoral education and monitoring programs before, during and after the upcoming elections.
I want to renew our commitment to work with the United States Government to promote the peace and prosperity of all the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace