Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held presidential elections, initially planned for 2016, in 2018. Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) declared then-opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner, the runner-up, also an opposition candidate, contested the results, alleging fraud. The Constitutional Court arbitrated the ensuing legal dispute and reaffirmed then-President-Elect Tshisekedi as the winner. Following the 2018 election, Tshisekedi formed a governing coalition with former President Joseph Kabila’s political coalition—Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), which had won majorities in both chambers of the Congolese Parliament and thus wielded significant control over key state institutions. In December 2020, after months of political gridlock, President Tshisekedi ended the coalition with the FCC and began consultations for a new governing majority coalition. In April 2021, Tshisekedi formed a new legislative majority that included former FCC-affiliated political leaders.  

The new political dispensation unblocked stalled electoral reforms. In June 2021, despite objections from civil society organizations and some religious denominations, the DRC’s Parliament overwhelmingly adopted amendments to the Organic Law on the CENI—reforms that had been under discussion for two years. The amended Organic Law allowed the renewal of the CENI leadership, whose mandate had lapsed in July 2019. President Tshisekedi appointed 15 new commissioners, including a new Commission president, between October 2021 and January 2022.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) currently implements the USAID/DRC-Funded Electoral Integrity Activity (DEIA). This Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) project is implemented in coordination with the International Republican Institute (IRI). Following the completion of the CENI leadership renewal in early 2022, IFES assisted the CENI to develop and adopt a 2022–2026 strategic plan that is anchored on improving the CENI’s credibility and service quality, rebuilding electoral stakeholders’ trust in the institution and greater inclusion of previously marginalized populations. IFES has also assisted the new leadership to re-launch wider-ranging stakeholder dialogue forums. Parallelly, IFES is assisting civil society organizations (CSOs), including youth-led, women-led, and disabled people's organizations, to effectively advocate for citizen priorities in legal reforms for timely, credible, and inclusive elections. With IFES’s assistance, CSOs formed the nationally representative iRÊVE network, which aims to advocate for transparent and inclusive elections in 2023 and beyond. Under previous CENI leadership, IFES trained permanent CENI technical staff on election logistics, conducted 2018 elections’ lessons learned sessions, completed an Election Process Diagnostic, and conducted stakeholder mapping to inform civic advocacy on electoral reforms.   

Throughout DEIA, IFES has contributed to improving gender and social inclusion in the electoral process. IFES has remotely trained over 100 women leaders and gender activists on electoral reform advocacy. Furthermore, IFES produced a comparative report on inclusion practices by African electoral management bodies, the findings of which have been widely disseminated among electoral stakeholders. Using these findings, IFES is working with the CENI and the DRC’s Ministry for Persons Living with Disabilities to spearhead initiatives for greater inclusion in the 2023 electoral process.


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