Padre Nyenyembe on Francis-Samia agenda on Church-State Cooperation: Will the Pope’s Agenda for Peaceful and Credible Elections Come True in Tanzania?

Mama Amon

JF-Expert Member
Mar 30, 2018
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Pope Francis posing with President Samia for a photo

I. Abstract

"Since the Church is present across the different stages of the election process, readers might wonder whether it is permissible in its advocacy to recommend a specific candidate to the Christian faithful. The answer is no. The Church calls us to evaluate carefully the policy positions of all the political candidates, according to the standard of the common good and dignity of each person. This is derived from reasoned reflection on the nature of the human person and their well-being."
--By Fr. Jordan Nyenyembe (2021:149), Church and State Relations: A Manual for Africa (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa), Chapter six : The Church and General Elections, pages 129-155.

According to the official Vatican Press Release, on the morning of 12 February 2024, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Her Excellency Ms. Samia Suluhu Hassan.

President Samia subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations.

During the cordial discussions, according to the press release, which took place at the Secretariat of State, appreciation was expressed for the existing good relations between the Holy See and Tanzania.

In particular, mention was made of the important role played by the Catholic Church in the country in favor of the population, especially in the charitable, educational and healthcare spheres.

Attention then turned to themes related to the social context in Tanzania, and the challenges the country is required to face. In addition, there was an exchange of views on the regional situation and current international events, auguring ever greater commitment to the promotion of peace.

Apart from these abstract statements, the concrete particulars of their discussions has not been disclosed so far by either side.

Some political analysts have focused on who triggered this visit, while others have done a guess work on what could be the possible agenda behind the scenes.

Given that Tanzania is heading toward Local Government and General elections in 2024-25, I guess that the major part of their agenda might have addressed the credibility of the forthcoming general elections in Tanzania. On this score, I have judged the works of Padre Jordan Nyenyembe to be so relevant.

Padre Jordan Nyenyembe is a Catholic theologian and priest of the Diocese of Mbinga in Tanzania.

He has lectured at St. Augustine University of Tanzania and Vienna University respectively; where he earned his Doctoral title at the Faculty of Catholic Theology.

Currently, Padre Nyenyembe is a Senior lecturer at Gaba Campus, of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

He has authored many books, including “Church and State Relations: A Manual for Africa (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa, 2021). Chapter six of this book is entitled, “The Church and General Elections (pp. 129-155).”

Because of its relevance to social context prevailing in Tanzania, this chapter is hereby reproduced verbatim for promoting the agenda which the book author, Father Nyenyembe, always fights for.

This chapter, which best summarizes what Pope Francis may have said to President Samia, about the role of the Catholic Church in the forthcoming General Elections in Tanzania, is organized by the author into the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • When Ballots Turn into Bullets
  • Negative Ethnicity Politics
  • Divisive Politics
  • Weak Judicial Systems
  • Church during Election Time
  • Election Monitoring and Observation
  • Formation of Christian Conscience
  • A Mobilizing Role
  • Summary
  • Conclusion
The Chapter is summarized below in a free editable text while its PDF format is appended for easy of downloading, should a reader need to do so.

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Fr. Jordan Nyenyembe

II. Introduction

General Elections in many African countries are unique special events. They take place at different intervals from one country to another, ranging between four (4) and seven (7) years.

Given the intervals and the urge for fresh air and change in leadership, citizens take these Election periods as a significant opportunity to bring new faces into national leadership.

In a democracy, General Elections constitute an opportunity for every citizen to participate in the system of their government, specifically to choose the president and the representative of the citizens in the legislature.

Political scholars conceive democracy as the free and equal rights of every person to participate in the system of their government.

In theory, that participation generally involves informed individuals voting for the representatives and ballot initiatives that best express their political wills, and guarantees that the interests of everyone, including the poor, will be protected by the sheer preponderance of their numbers.

Due to the significance of General Elections, political campaigns draw significant crowds in many places. Those campaigns are most attractive when candidates of charism and zeal are nominated by contesting parties, with the followers of those parties adorned with colorful shirts, t-shirts and hats that express their party affiliations.

During voting long queues of voters gather at polling stations, many of them braving the sweltering heat or pouring rain as they patiently wait to cast their votes, hoping that the next batch of elected officials will bring positive changes in their lives.

This is but one side of the coin. Ideally, General Elections are expected to be an opportunity to avoid conflicts, but this too is never the case.

Since the late 1980s, regular elections have replaced military coups d'etat that had become the means of changing governments in the decade of the 1970s.

Despite the acceptance of democratic tenets in Africa, the animosities that fanned coups and wars in the past have never healed.

As a result, "elections have become the new battle grounds of power struggles between the ethnic, religious and other partisan interest groups."

The multi-party democracy that started in many African countries in the 1990s, instead of bringing hope, has remained ineffective.

Therefore, elections are among the contemporary concerns that generate extreme violence in the continent. Anne Celestine Achieng concurs:

While elections are used in many conflicted regions to end violence, in Africa they have become a source of internal strife and a death trap. 202 Human rights violations are rampant.

Demonstrations by the citizens to protest shambolic elections have been met by severe human rights abuse by the police, government militia and the army.

General and by-elections in many places are marked by violations of human rights that include the right to information, right to suffrage, right to life, right to peaceful demonstration, right to free speech, and right to free movement.

In response to the resultant election-time conflicts, some people have thought that the Church ought to have a role in keeping peace and securing justice.

However, others wonder whether the Church should cooperate with the State at all, because the latter uses violence against citizens. Still others have decided to completely abandon participation in election processes altogether.

It is important to examine the issue of Church-State relations in General Elections soberly. Let us take the opinions of St Augustine and St Thomas as our points of departure, because they perceive the State differently.

"If, with St Augustine, we believe that human beings are for the most part motivated by their selfish desires irrational passions and hatred then the State arises out of sin, a necessity to protect us from one another, to prevent anarchy, to secure at least rudimentary justice for all, and to defend the people, from outside aggression."

Unfortunately, from the experience of many African elections, Augustine's view of the State and civil society proves to be true, but not very positive.

On the other hand, "if with St Thomas Aquinas, we believe that while we are sinners we have a degree of natural goodness and are given reason that enables us to see and act towards our true ends in the temporal order, then the State is part of "God's plan for creation," which will protect us from injustice, and will itself attempt to nurture justice in service to the common good."

From the two, we find that St Thomas Aquinas has a more positive view of the State. The Church cannot just run away from the State, especially when the State perpetrates violence against its citizens.

As Clement Majawa argues, "The Church's role in politics is to be there visibly in the African context of socio-economic public policy formulation and witness. It has to be prophetic, speaking for God and for people."

In supporting the Church's presence during election-time, let us categorize factors that give rise to such violence in the first place.

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The Presidential Escort team

III. When Ballots Turn into Bullets

Despite arousing the people's enthusiasm and expectations for change of leadership, the actual election experience in some countries over the years has been the exact opposite. A few cases in selected countries will suffice to demonstrate this phenomenon.

In Nigeria, the electoral contest of 2010 turned into religious violence between Christians and Muslims.

In the Central African Republic, the 2000 election turned into full-blown Muslim-Christian conflict between the "Seleka," the Muslim group and the Christian "anti-balaka" militia. In the conflict between the two sides about three thousand civilians were killed.

In Kenya, the electoral violence of 2007 turned into an inter-ethnic crisis where the Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Luo ethnic groups fought one another. 208 In South Africa, the 2016, electoral violence turned racial, pitting the blacks against the white minority.

In Somalia in 2002 elections turned into clan violence. These instances give a clear picture of the situation in Africa.

The question is what triggers conflicts during elections? The following are some of the most common triggers: negative ethnicity, divisive politics or as some call it partisan politics, and weak judicial systems.


IV. Negative Ethnicity Politics

Africans are conscious of the fact that they belong to different ethnic backgrounds.

This diversity is a gift from God to all humanity, which we should cherish. It is sad that during elections ethnic sentiments and tensions are at the highest peak and become competitive.


In many African countries, the State is paralyzed by dysfunctional inter-ethnic and inter-faith relationships.

With a shortage of capital resources, selfish politicians regard joining politics as a sure means to accrue wealth, so that political activity goes together with an entitlement mentality.

Similarly, voters are convinced that when they elect someone from their home region it will be easier for them to access wealth, get employment and develop their particular areas faster.

Once elected, therefore, politicians are expected to show direct favoritism towards their constituents. Such favoritism is the gratitude that voters expect.

This is the genesis of skewed development in many African states. Affiliation with political leaders influences one's region's access to employment, for example, irrespective of academic or professional qualification.

This type of cronyism or favoritism promotes vices such as corruption, maladministration, lack of accountability and, worse, the secret extermination of State critics. In the end, incumbent politicians fight with all their means to change constitutions, and to prolong their terms in office.

Meanwhile, the people from other ethnic groups wait resignedly for elections to come so that they too can ascend to power..Those in power use all means to retain their seats, including rigging of votes. All the while, the common people's grievances are ignored and shunned by the ruling politicians.

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The banquet at Vatican

V. Divisive Politics

Elections are a legal and democratic means to secure legitimate power. However, when elections are marred with violence and chaos, it becomes difficult to ascertain whether the declared winners are indeed the legitimate representatives of the will of the people.

This explains why, at times, one gets the impression that multi-party politics was forced on Africa by the West. Of course, African governments in some countries had no choice but to accept multi-party in order to receive financial assistances.

When these countries embarked on multi-party democracy, they did not establish new structures to guarantee fair politics and level playing field for all the registered political parties.

As a result, ruling parties take advantage of existing constitutional gaps to harass other parties. Things are much worse in those countries where the president is at the same time the chairperson of the ruling party and head of State.

In such countries, where the president happens to be among contesting candidates, it is difficult to provide a fair ground for democratic elections.

The unfair political ground coupled with mistreatments of the opposition parties during election easily sparks violence.

In Africa, many ruling parties use divisive politics to stake a hold on to power. The party machinery identifies the loyalty and patriotism of its citizens in view of party affiliation rather than the welfare of the nation.

In such a scenario, opposing views are judged as betrayal to the nation state. In some countries, political diversity does not spearhead a culture for the people to cherish plurality of ideas and identities.

What the citizens observe is repeated storms of acts of bitter hatred across ethnic and regional divide that often erupt into verbal and even physical fights in parliaments.

It is not odd to spot some politicians tearing one another apart in a fashion of what the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), describes as Bellum omnium contra omnes - "a war of all against all."

This is unfortunate because multi-party democracy is supposed to provide a framework for aggregating the best of ideas from diverse interest groups into a national agenda.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace points out that, in these countries, "partisan politics have become so divisive and exclusionary that political parties that gain power ascribe to themselves the monopoly of knowledge."

We witness today in some African countries an attitude by ruling parties of the deprivation of equal rights of citizenship to members of alternative parties.

As a result, resentment and anger grow quickly, the desire for change is real, and it boils deep in the hearts of many. There lacks a national consensus and unity of purpose as far as the development priorities of the country are concerned.

In such a situation, Archbishop James Chiona of Blantyre Malawi warns, "Party politics are potentially divisive to the people of God. As such, the Church leadership is called not to join party politics, but must guide and bring sanity to party politics."

During election campaigns, political parties often come out in style with rebranded manifestos to sell to the voters. Carried on the campaign trail, manifestos outline the promises made by political parties informed by the electorate's prevailing realities. Often, however, such promises are exaggerated and not rooted in reality.

As would be expected, once these parties move from opposition into government they frequently cite limited knowledge of the pre-existing situation as a pretext to jettison whatever promises they had made on the campaign trail.

In Africa, general election campaigns are full of fanfare. Affluent parties, mainly those who are aware that the citizens are tired of them, use these campaigns to divert the attention of voters from real issues, by giving them items like t-shirts, hats, khangas and vitenges (special pieces of clothes worn by women mainly in Kenya and Tanzania), money and the like.

One wonders if it is just a coincidence that when the Arabs and Europeans came in to obtain slaves and to colonise the continent, they lured African chiefs with the same material benefits and trinkets.

What the people want is for their fundamental rights to be respected, including the freedom of worship, movement, opinion making and press/media.

Thus, the British statesman Lord Acton formulated that "freedom is the highest political end." 213 Alongside freedom, the citizens yearn for justice in all its three dimensions (contributive, commutative and restorative).

When politics operates with a sense of justice, the citizens live in peace and in harmony, and it is this harmony that makes it possible for participation (the right of citizens to be responsible for their welfare and to hold their leaders accountable).

Material goods such as t-shirts given free of charge during election campaigns act as "political anaesthesia" meant to manipulate the citizens and impair with their ability to vote for the most suitable candidate.

Politicians on the campaigns trail in Africa promise job opportunities, abundant food, low-cost housing, better health facilities, poverty eradication, and various freedoms for the people, among other things.

This raises high hopes, especially among the poor who are a majority in many areas. However, with time, as the new regime shows no signs of fulfilling its manifesto, most people become disillusioned.

Consequently, many Africans erroneously construe the government's shortcomings as the undesirable qualities of democracy.

In such an atmosphere of broken promises, people lose trust in the government. Indeed, young democracies in Africa have not satisfied the expectations of the people. With such a situation, disappointment is the mainstay of the voters.

Looking back on unfulfilled promises of the last election, they feel betrayed. Unfortunately, elected officials often get away with these failures time and again because of the absence of mechanisms of accountability for the citizens to hold them to their word.

Over time, the people have learned to distrust government promises because they do not reflect their real needs. In the midst of such hopelessness and distrust, some people still vote, as others choose to boycott voting since in their view the results are always predetermined.

Citizens are reduced to perplexed but muted bystanders in their own country because they are never taken seriously, and their needs are not addressed by those in the government.

This sorry situation of African politics is what led Wangari Maathai to write, "One of the major tragedies of postcolonial Africa is that the African peoples have trusted their leaders, but only a few of those leaders have honoured that trust."

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The Government and CCM team at Vatican

VI. Weak Judicial Systems

Another contributor to election violence in Africa is the inept judicial systems. Most African voters know that atrocities committed by politicians will not receive due attention in the courts of justice.

Therefore, their only recourse is to peaceful demonstrations and protests that usually turn violent due to excessive use of force by government security officers. The need for strong and independent judiciary systems is urgent, especially in Africa.

Today, contested election results have become common in many African countries.

As the former Secretary General of the United Nations, the late Kofi Annan, once stated:

Many African countries urge and long for democratic space, multi-party democracy and free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible elections; but when people go for multi-party elections, the results are often pot-holed and rejected. Then everybody becomes an expert of finding legal weakness, faults and interpretation surrounding the elections.

This leads to vicious legal battles in constitutional, high and supreme courts of the land.

The undesired outcomes of contested elections oftentimes include socio-political cycles of tensions, civil wars, destruction of property and loss of life. A strong and independent judiciary could help to avoid such violence.

The Kenyan experience is clear testimony of how an independent judiciary can help avoid post-election violence.

After the change of the constitution in 2010, the judiciary was given its autonomy which protected it from interference by the Executive.

During the national elections of 2017, tensions were high between the ruling Jubilee Party and the main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

The Supreme Court ruled that the presidential votes should be recounted. Although the ruling party was not happy with the Supreme Court ruling its obedience to the court ruling helped to calm the tensions and rescue the nation from the road to chaos.

The same thing happened in Malawi during the 2019 general elections. The ruling party was declared winner.

The main opposition party rejected the results, and Malawians went on to streets to protest the presidential results; a spree of violence was soon recorded.

The opposition party contested the presidential results before the high court, which found malpractices in the election process, and ordered a repeat of the elections.

In a turn of event, on 27 June 2020, Malawi's opposition leader, Dr Lazarus Chakwera was declared winner of the rerun presidential elections.

It was a dramatic reversal of incumbent Peter Mutharika's discredited win 13 months earlier, in a process that analysts viewed with great admiration as a triumph of democracy in Africa.

Kenya's opposition leader, Raila Odinga, commented that, "the election in Malawi is a symbol of hope for those who support democracy in Africa and around the world."

The ruling of courts in Kenya and Malawi helped to contain the mounting tensions resulting in peaceful assumption of power.

The firm and bold decision taken by these courts to protect justice earned both the Kenyan and Malawian supreme courts praise from all over the world.

However, it is unfortunate that, still in many African countries, judicial systems are weak and not independent. Too much power is concentrated in the executive, so that presidents are more of imperial chiefs than democratic leaders.

In some countries, one gets the impression that it is presidents who own states, not the citizens. Such a situation parallels a retreat to the Middle Ages, where the feudal kings like the French King Louis XIV (Louis Dieudonne, 5 September 1638-1 September 1715) appropriated the nation and the state all together.

The statement “Vetat c'estmoi," meaning "the State/Nation is mine," - "I am the state/nation" attributed to him, is an evidence of an absolute ruler.

He was the king of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history.

There is something of similarity between this king and the trends of the sitting presidents today in some African countries.

First is the tendency to stay longer in power than is allowed in constitution. Second is the tendency to consider themselves as God-given gifts to the people! Interestingly, the name of King Louis XIV, "Dieudonne," literally means "God-given."

And third, like King Louis XIV who was a public devout Catholic, some African presidents too, tend to attract public attention as "God-fearing" leaders, thus justifying their absolute power as a mandate from God.

In a situation like this, in modern nation states, citizens are left at the mercy of the ruling party and the president himself.

It is no wonder that the French feudal system was dismantled by the French Revolution in 1789, which called for a constitutional monarchy guided by values of liberty, equality and fraternity of all people.

A strong and independent judiciary is necessary even as international observers are equally important. The presence of such observers does not and cannot replace the judiciary. An example can be taken from Malawi's 21 May 2019 election again.

The polls were commended as free, fair and credible by regional bodies like SADC, COMESA, African Union and international organizations like United Nations, European Union and USA.

However, the Constitutional Court in Malawi found numerous electoral irregularities and nullified the election of President Arthur Mutharika.

The court then ordered fresh presidential elections while maintaining as valid the elections of members of parliament and local government councilors in the same tripartite general elections.

It is always important that the judiciary remains integral and free from the influence of State officials and their cronies.

Kofi Annan is quoted to have lamented that "the greatest enemy of democratization process in Africa is institutionalized corruption. Thus, we commonly hear people say: 'why hire a lawyer, if you can bribe a judge.”

The pertinent question here, in relation to the judiciary as an important organ where citizens can forward complaints such as election rigging is: if presidents of nation states and members of parliaments are elected why are judges not elected by the people?

According to a research done in different states in the US, "The citizens' preference is to elect their judges. This is the reality in the majority of the states."

However, in some states like Missouri, judges are elected by the people, while in others they are appointed by the governors.

The Supreme Court Judges in Washington DC, however, are appointed by a judicial commission, nominated by the president, and confirmed by the Senate.

In the British law system, Lord Chief Justices are appointed by a special panel convened by the judicial Appointment Commission.

Be it in United States, England or in any of the African countries, research findings show that respondents are divided into two sides. There are those who want elections and others who prefer appointment for judges.

For our part, we ascribe to the appointment model when it comes to judges. There are several reasons: first, we think that judges who are appointed through the commission of experts tend to be more professional candidates than those elected.

According to Steve Odland, the appointment system is better in order "to safeguard neutrality on the bench, states should move from electing to appointing judges - specifically, through nonpartisan commissions that select judges based on merit.”

Second, elections are marked with a lot of emotion, sentiments and conflict of interests. Judges have a code of ethics, and are not allowed to make campaign promises.

Third, the election costs can easily lead the judges to be corrupted and thus impair their rulings in courts.

The existence of an independent judiciary provisioned in a State's constitution is critical for people to have trust. At all times, it is imperative that justice be done visibly, not only in court rulings, but also in the judicial structures.

In some countries, a sitting president is also a candidate for re-election. If constitutions permit such presidents to appoint judges and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, they can interfere with the independence of the Judiciary.

A system of appointing judges through commissions where members are drawn from across a variety of groups strengthens judicial independence. Judges play an indispensable and honorable role, and they should not be intimidated.

The point is that the constitutions of African nation States need to be tailored in such a way as to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

One thing is clear, the citizens of these states "cannot look to the State or government for salvation or liberation, as a number of totalitarian regimes have promised.

Not only is the state itself infected with human sin and therefore incapable of redeeming lost human being; it tends to claim way too much for itself."

No effort should be spared to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. On this account, Robert Benne proposes that "citizens must be protected from the overweening power of the state by other powerful checks, such as constitutional law. The government must be limited by the consent of the governed."

Once people lose faith in the judiciary, aggrieved citizens have nowhere to turn for help, and take the law into their own hands.



President Samia's Gift to the Pope

VII. Church during Election Time

We have stated that general elections are important events for citizens, and on that account the Church cannot stay aloof.

In addition, we have shown that elections especially in Africa breed violence; and sometimes cause death. As an institution that preaches the sanctity of human life, the Church advocates for free and fair elections, and in order for elections to be free and fair, the State needs to establish structures that promote healthy politics.

The State's constitution should protect the interest of all the political stakeholders. As enshrined in the constitution, there should be freedom of expression. Any attempt by the State to silence oppositional voices, prepares way for institutionalised corruption.

For example, without investigative journalism capable of exposing evils committed by State officials, citizens will be denied crucial information that could inform their choice of right leaders.

Politics is an on-going life determinant given that a human being is naturally a political being. The end of one election should be the beginning of the preparation for the next, since each political party should be free to expand and assess up the performance of the ruling party.

Non-Governmental Organization such as human rights groups, legitimately registered need to be allowed to assist the government at voting time.

External observers can monitor elections, providing political credibility on the part of the candidates. The invitation to assist by international observation mission should be a bona fide gesture of the State. It says "Come, dear partners, to verify our election is going to be free and fair."


situations where governments do not grant freedom to opposition parties to hold public and indoor meetings and where political grounds favour ruling parties, calling for general elections and inviting international observers at the last phase, of election amounts not only to fraud but it is also a simulatio summa, the highest degree of simulation; considering the fact that such a gesture is a mere cover up: the motive being just to please the international community for aids and loans.

Some people think that the Church is an alien player in the election process. This is an incorrect position. For nearly a century, the Church has encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate in electoral politics and vote with their conscience.

For only a short time in the late nineteenth century, after the emergence of mass democracy, the Church officially opposed the political participation of Catholic Italians due to the Vatican's disagreement with the newly created Italian State, and asked that Catholics become "neither elected nor electors."

With Pope Pius XI's encyclical “Mysterious City of God” promulgated on 23 December 1922, a role for lay Catholic organizations in the political process would eventually evolve into European Christian Democratic Parties.

As the Vatican began to encourage Italian and other European Catholics to vote, often in opposition to Communist parties, it began to take a more vocal role as a supporter of citizen politics.

Through its various dicasteries, it has released documents encouraging and supporting the Catholic faithful in active election in public discourse "...is not a marginal interest or activity, or one that is tacked on the Church's mission, rather it is at the very heart of the Church's ministry of service.... This is a ministry that stems not only from proclamation but also from witness."

Prior to every US presidential election since 1976, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a statement encouraging Catholics to vote and outlining Church teachings that are important to the political issues being debated.

The 1999 statement, Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium, acknowledged the constrained choices of the US political system and motivated people to participate in the election: "The new millennium should be an opportunity for renewed participation.

We must challenge all parties and every candidate to defend human life and dignity, to pursue greater justice and peace to uphold family life, and to advance the common good."

The short presentation above shows that as the Body of Christ, the Church has engaged in the election process. We shall examine more relevant cases of the Church's role in the election process.

Among those roles are: the formation of the Christian conscience, monitoring and mobilising for participation.
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VIII. Election Monitoring and Observation

General elections follow a process. There is the initial stage, then the preparation stage, the voting stage, counting and transmission of results, announcement of results, and post-elections resolutions. Using its Justice and Peace Commissions (Integral Development Commissions), the Church is keen and active in all stages of the process.

In Africa, many people in the rural areas do not think that voting is essential. A good number of those in urban centres simultaneously do not know how much politics affects all the areas of their lives.

In response to such apathy, the Church usually underscores the importance of registering and voting, using fliers, seminars, workshops and diocesan radio programmes.

In Africa since the late 1980s, the Church has been active in democratization processes. It has presided over constitutional conferences to chart the path from single-party or military dictatorships to multi-party democratic elections in several countries.

In Zaire during the last days of President Mobutu Sese Seko, the Catholic Church was asked to oversee the transition period.

Cardinal Laurent Pasinya Mosengwo was the chairman of the Transition Council until when power was handed over to the civilian President Laurent Desire Kabila.

In Burundi, the Church was heavily involved in the organisation of the 2010 communal (or local government) elections, at the behest of all the political parties. Indeed, thirteen out of the seventeen Provincial Election returning officers were Catholic priests selected by all the political parties.

Even though the opposition subsequently rejected the outcome of the elections and accused the Church of complicity in its loss, it nonetheless continued to emphasise that the Church was still the most credible organisation to mediate in the electoral dispute and the resultant political impasse between them and the government.

During the 2018 elections that saw the ascension of Etienne Tchisekedi to the presidency, many citizens of DRC had

wished for Joseph Kabila to step down. The former president had expressed interest to contest for presidency again. The Catholic Church staged peaceful demonstrations with the support of civilians.

In the process several priests and lay faithful were killed by the police. The international community intensified pressure for Kabila to rescind his bid for presidency.

He bowed to the pressure and retreated. In the context of African politics where rulers tend to change constitutions to stay longer in power, it seems the only fear such leaders have in so far as peaceful demonstration is concerned is the civil protests supported by the Church.

In West Africa we have a telling example on the Church's presence during elections for the common good in Ghana. Since 1992, the Church has been a member of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODECO), which has mobilised and deployed electoral observers across the country.

However, the Catholic Church's singular achievement came in 2008 when Cardinal Turkson, then Archbishop of Cape Coast, chaired the National Peace Council.

In addition to organizing all the presidential debates, the first in the history of Ghana, at the final debate in Tamale, Cardinal Turkson personally secured the commitment of all the presidential candidates to eschew violence and to accept the results of the elections, whether or not the outcome favored them.

Securing that public commitment would later prove vital when Ghana was on the brink of war on the eve of the December 2008 elections.

Cardinal Turkson evoked that commitment when civil society groups called on him personally to rush to Accra to intervene with the candidates of the two main parties. That intervention helped to resolve the electoral dispute and averted the violence that was set to erupt.

In some African countries, the Church's presence in monitoring of elections has been realised through Justice and Peace Commissions.

When Malawi was having its national general elections in 2019, the Justice and Peace Commissions of the AMECEA Secretariat in Nairobi were invited as observers on monitoring mission.

Learning from the 2007 ethnic clashes in Kenya, the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Kenya Catholic Bishops' Conference has been instrumental in providing civic education before elections.

In Zambia, the Justice and Peace Commission went one step further in the October 2011 elections. It ran a parallel vote collation exercise across the country.

The very close match between the JPC's collated results and that of the National Electoral Commission helped to improve transparency and make it more difficult for the sitting president to reject his election loss.
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IX. Formation of Christian Conscience

During elections the Church takes part in preparing and in encouraging people to vote for the leaders of their choice.

The Christian faithful are reminded about the mission of every believer, to be aware of our shared nature and the obligation to build up a society where human beings flourish together in justice and love. Catholics must vote, guided by the dictates of their conscience.

They must analyse the issues that each political candidate raises before the citizens and discern concrete and tangible propositions from false and empty political rhetoric.

It is important for citizens to be very alert during election campaigns and be especially wary of those candidates who harbour ill will and selfish intentions.

Some of these politicians loudly proclaim democratic ideals during campaigns, but in reality they cannot imagine a political system that actually offers free and equal representation to every contesting party.

The second letter of St Peter says it all about such cunning politicians, "They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him" (2 Pt 2:19).

In his book, Christianity and the Political Order: Conflict, Cooptation and Cooperation, Kenneth Himes, reminds Christians that moral participation requires the development and use of the virtue of prudence by which we make "wise judgements about right action, to determine how best to translate one's moral commitments into support for particular political leaders and policy choices."

Election manifestos and campaigns that mobilise citizens to observe peace without the necessary socio-economic and political transformation are a manifestation of political insincerity.

No sustainable peace can be achieved without doing justice to the citizens. The Church should not only amplify the voice of peace but also stand as a beacon of Gospel truth; by calling for justice to be done in the entire election process.

Always be informed by the candid words of prophet Jeremiah, 'peace, peace' they say though there is no peace. They are odious, they have done abominable things" (Jer 6:14-15).

Throughout the election process the Church should make a clarion call for the faithful to make the moral choice for candidates who uphold values that do not contradict the sanctity of human life, human dignity, freedom of worship, and care for the common good.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes it clear that one cannot support "intrinsically evil acts," among which are abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, destruction of embryos, torture, genocide, the deliberate targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks and racism.

The means by which we choose must be consistent with the good end we seek. For instance, it is downright sinful to elect a candidate who is involved in the killing of albino children, believing that albino organs will bring them good fortune during elections and tenure in office. Candidates who use their followers to abduct their opponents so that it becomes easier for them to win the election should also be shunned and arrested.

While proposing the choice of candidates through conscience, Kenneth R. Himmes outlines a series of "considerations in voting" relevant to living a "faithful citizenship." Among them are the following:

  • The voter assesses the "intelligence, temperament and character of the candidate."
  • The voter must study the "track record of activity" of the candidate to determine what their priorities truly are and where their moral priorities are on the issues of importance to faithful citizenship.
  • The voter must consider the political context to determine if the issues of importance are timely and feasible. Of course, one may need to be prophetic and raise the issue despite the probable lack of success in moving it forward, but one must evaluate the reasonableness of the politician's sense of timeliness for a specific issue. Part of politics is creating "timeliness" through the hard work of organising support for important issues.

Since the Church is present across the different stages of the election process, readers might wonder whether it is permissible in its advocacy to recommend a specific candidate to the Christian faithful. The answer is no. The Church calls us to evaluate carefully the policy positions of all the political candidates, according to the standard of the common good and dignity of each person.

This is derived from reasoned reflection on the nature of the human person and their well-being. When John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the United States, ran for the office, many Protestants were worried that once elected he would run his office by the directives from the Vatican.

His own response came out of the constitutional description that he swore to protect: "I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote."

Senator John Kennedy recognised this when he was addressing the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a gathering of Southern Baptist clerics, during his 1960 campaign.

The Protestant ministers, like the Catholic bishops, argued for both the right and duty of the Church to participate in the nation's public discourse.

As a citizen in a country whose State observed an absolute separation between Church and State, Kennedy made a powerful statement.

Formation of Christian conscience during and after elections is of paramount importance. Maurice Cardinal Otunga, former Archbishop of Nairobi, in 1992 cautioned that the Christian conscience needs to be formed properly. The Cardinal wrote:

“Conscience should be defined and guided by God himself in Church, government and State because there are authentic consciences and erroneous consciences depending on its formation. Where the conscience becomes the standard ethos and norm of guidance then there can be no conflict between Church and State, between religious belief and political decisions. Then the reign of God rules.”

This is because politicians who are Catholic have a challenging responsibility to support laws that uphold the dignity of every human person.

Laws passed in parliament that deny the citizens their rights to participate freely in their own destiny, all laws that violate the life and integrity of any person at any stage, from conception to death, are fundamentally unjust and must be opposed, not only on the ground of faith, but also by virtue of right reason.

Christianity demands that believers give a coherent witness to the Gospel in every facet of their lives.

It is expected of politicians of faith "to be attentive to the danger of living parallel lives whereby they compartmentalize their existence into spiritual and secular spheres. Neither should they confuse their personal opinion with a well-formed Christian conscience."
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IX. A Mobilizing Role

The future of Africa belongs to its young people, who are the majority population in the continent. It is a generation privileged with advanced technology that comes with unique opportunities and challenges.

It is a generation of diversity and plurality that will not readily accept the dominance of monolithic politics in its different facets: be it one party system rule, or over-stayed incumbency.

In the face of the African ruling elites who have closed the doors to desired change, however, many young people have become desperate, especially with ever rising unemployment rates, and college loans to repay.

As a result of such frustrations, a good number of young people in Africa find no meaning in voting.

In such a situation, the Church needs to mobilise young people to vote. As a privileged establishment that can win the hearts of the people easily, the Church has an extensive network.

No State institution has such penetration as the Church. "Church's structure and penetration in Africa represents an impressive reserve of foot soldiers that even the African Union cannot dream of.

That is why, as we have noted, the Church has been able to mobilise more election observers than the United Nations and African Union systems or even the Carter Centre."

Since the strength of the Church resides in the youth as St John mentions in his letter (cf. 1 Jn 2:14), it cannot stay aloof during elections.

The Church has to take the lead in urging the youth to assume their ethical role of voting for good leaders. The African Church must take the challenge that St John Paul II has placed to its teaching. "An authentic democracy, which respects pluralism, is one of the principal routes along which the Church travels together with the people, [...] is the sign of a Church which participates in the promotion of the rule of law everywhere in Africa."
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The only child (STD VII student) that escorted President Samia to the Vatican


X. Summary

In this chapter, we have strived to emphasise that national elections are crucial moments for modern nation states.

During elections, citizens get the opportunity to decide their destiny by voting, given that politics is very important for the welfare of the people.

We also have noted that, because national elections are important, from the African experience they can become an occasion for violence and bloodshed.

We mentioned some of the causes of violence during elections and explored what the Church does and can do to make a positive difference.

We have affirmed that the Church's participation in election is visibly evident in different ways: physical voting through its members who happen also to be citizens who are eligible to vote, material supply and distribution such as diffusing and delivering of civic education materials and leaflets and moral and spiritual assurance by providing spiritual support and ethical guidance to politicians and voters, as well as advocacy to the voiceless. Like their compatriots, bishops, priests, religious men and women are obliged to vote.

Across the various stages of the electoral process the Church prepares the people by offering civic education, and by educating about the Social Teaching of the Church.

The role of the Church is strategic since it has easy access to a great number of citizens in parishes and outstations through diocesan radios, newspapers, Sunday homilies, and fliers.

It is clear, therefore, that the Church is and can be instrumental in promoting free, transparent, and credible elections.

The presence of the Church is by itself a manifestation that it is naturally bound to politics and it is absurd for politicians to advance election campaigns to parishes, monasteries and convents, yet after being elected to office refuse to listen to Church ministers.

Dismissing prophetic utterances of pastors as God's mouthpiece deprives African politics of spiritual and ethical sanitizers.

Bringing morality into politics is the obligation of the Church. It has to motivate the lay faithful of sound education, of strong faith and of good conduct to seek political offices during elections, rather than remaining in the backyard. Sometimes Church leaders are seen at the forefront appealing for peace, but many conflicts during elections are caused by lack of justice.

All the conflicts during elections pose "a serious challenge to Catholic ethics because of the dichotomy established by the warring parties between peaceful resolution and just resolution of the impasse."

It is therefore important to realize that pleading for peace without addressing the injustices committed by parties cannot solve the problem. In fact justice and peace are major themes of the Catholic Social Teachings; "the opposition between them mires Church leadership in a political quandary."

African politics can only be transformed when the Church injects its spiritual and ethical charm into politics. It is always good to remember the warning of the Greek philosopher Plato, "the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics, is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

Politics can only be an integral and holistic service if it is run by intelligent leaders who are persons of good moral conduct. African Catholic bishops must be commended for the pastoral letters they write constantly to address various issues affecting society.

Borrowing a leaf from their brother bishops in the United States, the African hierarchy should issue pastoral letters at the time of General Elections to clarify pertinent issues and set direction for Christian voters.

Bishops should also strengthen the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Church in their pastoral engagement with the intention to mobilize voters to stand by the dictates of their conscience as they vote.

The importance of the Church's presence in elections, especially with the role of mobilizing the young and old to vote cannot be over stressed. The Church can be heeded when it calls for proper management of resources available.

A lot of money is stolen during election campaigns. As a matter of fact, resource governance remains a challenge in Africa. The struggle for resource control is one of the causes of intense political competition that often culminates in violent conflicts.

The tense state of people during elections gives one the impression that what is behind all the struggle is not a passion to serve, but to gain access to and control over resources.

General elections constitute a precious moment to any nation state. This chapter has underlined that the Catholic Church is a strong supporter of democracy. However, it must be more explicit in directing the citizens to vote and choose their political leaders.

Multi-party democracy provides alternative choice for the citizens to decide their political destiny. The State gains its legitimacy and support from the consent of the governed - the citizens.

It is so important that every effort is made to ensure electoral processes are as candid and open as possible. We have mentioned that it is important to concentrate not just on the final stage of voting, but also begin with healthy pre-electoral discourses.


In order to avoid or minimize disputes and conflicts, it is good to be aware of issues that contribute to electoral conflicts such as skewed electoral boundary demarcation, bloated voter registers, delays (planned and unplanned) in the delivery of electoral materials, inadequate training of electoral officers, the selection and positioning of biased electoral personnel, among others.

The Church and State should work together to address such issues before the date of voting.

Therefore, we are warned "to wait for the electoral day to observe the freedom, fairness and transparency of the elections is not only a waste of time, it could potentially add fuel to the fire as aggrieved groups would not be persuaded by the findings of the observation and monitoring teams."
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XI. Conclusion

In this chapter, we have striven to emphasize that national elections are crucial moments for modern nation states. During elections, citizens get the opportunity to decide their destiny by voting, given that politics is very important for the welfare of the people.

We also have noted that, because national elections are important, from the African experience they can become an occasion for violence and bloodshed. We mentioned some of the causes of violence during elections and explored what the Church does and can do to make a positive difference.

We have affirmed that the Church's participation in election is visibly evident in different ways: physical voting through its members who happen also to be citizens who are eligible to vote, material supply and distribution such as diffusing and delivering of civic education materials and leaflets and moral and spiritual assurance by providing spiritual support and ethical guidance to politicians and voters, as well as advocacy to the voiceless.

Like their compatriots, bishops, priests, religious men and women are obliged to vote. Across the various stages of the electoral process the Church prepares the people by offering civic education, and by educating about the Social Teaching of the Church.

The role of the Church is strategic since it has easy access to a great number of citizens in parishes and outstations through diocesan radios, newspapers, Sunday homilies, and fliers.

It is clear, therefore, that the Church is and can be instrumental in promoting free, transparent, and credible elections.

The presence of the Church is by itself a manifestation that it is naturally bound to politics and it is absurd for politicians to advance election campaigns to parishes, monasteries and convents, yet after being elected to office refuse to listen to Church ministers.

Dismissing prophetic utterances of pastors as God's mouthpiece deprives African politics of spiritual and ethical sanitisers.

Bringing morality into politics is the obligation of the Church. It has to motivate the lay faithful of sound education, of strong faith and of good conduct to seek political offices during elections, rather than remaining in the backyard.


Sometimes Church leaders are seen at the forefront appealing for peace, but many conflicts during elections are caused by lack of justice. All the conflicts during elections pose "a serious challenge to Catholic ethics because of the dichotomy established by the warring parties between peaceful resolution and just resolution of the impasse."

It is therefore important to realize that pleading for peace without addressing the injustices committed by parties cannot solve the problem. In fact justice and peace are major themes of the Catholic Social Teachings; "the opposition between them mires Church leadership in a political quandary."


African politics can only be transformed when the Church injects its spiritual and ethical charm into politics. It is always good to remember the warning of the Greek philosopher Plato, "the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics, is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

Politics can only be an integral and holistic service if it is run by intelligent leaders who are persons of good moral conduct.

African Catholic bishops must be commended for the pastoral letters they write constantly to address various issues affecting society.

Borrowing a leaf from their brother bishops in the United States, the African hierarchy should issue pastoral letters at the time of General Elections to clarify pertinent issues and set direction for Christian voters.


Bishops should also strengthen the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Church in their pastoral engagement with the intention to mobilize voters to stand by the dictates of their conscience as they vote.

The importance of the Church's presence in elections, especially with the role of mobilizing the young and old to vote cannot be over stressed.


The Church can be heeded when it calls for proper management of resources available. A lot of money is stolen during election campaigns.

As a matter of fact, resource governance remains a challenge in Africa. The struggle for resource control is one of the causes of intense political competition that often culminates in violent conflicts.

The tense state of people during elections gives one the impression that what is behind all the struggle is not a passion to serve, but to gain access to and control over resources.

General elections constitute a precious moment to any nation state. This chapter has underlined that the Catholic Church is a strong supporter of democracy. However, it must be more explicit in directing the citizens to vote and choose their political leaders.

Multi-party democracy provides alternative choice for the citizens to decide their political destiny. The State gains its legitimacy and support from the consent of the governed - the citizens.

It is so important that every effort is made to ensure electoral processes are as candid and open as possible. We have mentioned that it is important to concentrate not just on the final stage of voting, but also begin with healthy pre-electoral discourses.

In order to avoid or minimize disputes and conflicts, it is good to be aware of issues that contribute to electoral conflicts such as skewed electoral boundary demarcation, bloated voter registers, delays (planned and unplanned) in the delivery of electoral materials, inadequate training of electoral officers, the selection and positioning of biased electoral personnel, among others.

The Church and State should work together to address such issues before the date of voting.

Therefore, we are warned "to wait for the electoral day to observe the freedom, fairness and transparency of the elections is not only a waste of time, it could potentially add fuel to the fire as aggrieved groups would not be persuaded by the findings of the observation and monitoring teams."


Compiled by

Dr. Mama Amon
The CEO
Dawati la Utafiti la Mama Amon (DUMA)
SLP P/Bag
"Sumbawanga Town"
Sumbawanga



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The Book​
 

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Haitawezekana kwasababu Vatican siyo Donor country kwa Tanzania, Pili CCM haiko Tayari kuondoka madarakani, Katiba na Serikali na vyombo vyote vya serikali vipo kuisaidia CCM iendelee kuwepo madarakani. Jibu rahisi kwa kiinglishi ni kwamba There will never be a peaceful and credible election in Tanzania.
 
View attachment 2901814
Pope Francis posing with President Samia for a photo

I. Abstract

"Since the Church is present across the different stages of the election process, readers might wonder whether it is permissible in its advocacy to recommend a specific candidate to the Christian faithful. The answer is no. The Church calls us to evaluate carefully the policy positions of all the political candidates, according to the standard of the common good and dignity of each person. This is derived from reasoned reflection on the nature of the human person and their well-being."
--By Fr. Jordan Nyenyembe (2021:149), Church and State Relations: A Manual for Africa (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa), Chapter six : The Church and General Elections, pages 129-155.

According to the official Vatican Press Release, on the morning of 12 February 2024, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Her Excellency Ms. Samia Suluhu Hassan.

President Samia subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations.

During the cordial discussions, according to the press release, which took place at the Secretariat of State, appreciation was expressed for the existing good relations between the Holy See and Tanzania.

In particular, mention was made of the important role played by the Catholic Church in the country in favor of the population, especially in the charitable, educational and healthcare spheres.

Attention then turned to themes related to the social context in Tanzania, and the challenges the country is required to face. In addition, there was an exchange of views on the regional situation and current international events, auguring ever greater commitment to the promotion of peace.

Apart from these abstract statements, the concrete particulars of their discussions has not been disclosed so far by either side.

Some political analysts have focused on who triggered this visit, while others have done a guess work on what could be the possible agenda behind the scenes.

Given that Tanzania is heading toward Local Government and General elections in 2024-25, I guess that the major part of their agenda might have addressed the credibility of the forthcoming general elections in Tanzania. On this score, I have judged the works of Padre Jordan Nyenyembe to be so relevant.

Padre Jordan Nyenyembe is a Catholic theologian and priest of the Diocese of Mbinga in Tanzania.

He has lectured at St. Augustine University of Tanzania and Vienna University respectively; where he earned his Doctoral title at the Faculty of Catholic Theology.

Currently, Padre Nyenyembe is a Senior lecturer at Gaba Campus, of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

He has authored many books, including “Church and State Relations: A Manual for Africa (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa, 2021). Chapter six of this book is entitled, “The Church and General Elections (pp. 129-155).”

Because of its relevance to social context prevailing in Tanzania, this chapter is hereby reproduced verbatim for promoting the agenda which the book author, Father Nyenyembe, always fights for.

This chapter, which best summarizes what Pope Francis may have said to President Samia, about the role of the Catholic Church in the forthcoming General Elections in Tanzania, is organized by the author into the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • When Ballots Turn into Bullets
  • Negative Ethnicity Politics
  • Divisive Politics
  • Weak Judicial Systems
  • Church during Election Time
  • Election Monitoring and Observation
  • Formation of Christian Conscience
  • A Mobilizing Role
  • Summary
  • Conclusion
The Chapter is summarized below in a free editable text while its PDF format is appended for easy of downloading, should a reader need to do so.

View attachment 2945133

Fr. Jordan Nyenyembe

II. Introduction

General Elections in many African countries are unique special events. They take place at different intervals from one country to another, ranging between four (4) and seven (7) years.

Given the intervals and the urge for fresh air and change in leadership, citizens take these Election periods as a significant opportunity to bring new faces into national leadership.

In a democracy, General Elections constitute an opportunity for every citizen to participate in the system of their government, specifically to choose the president and the representative of the citizens in the legislature.

Political scholars conceive democracy as the free and equal rights of every person to participate in the system of their government.

In theory, that participation generally involves informed individuals voting for the representatives and ballot initiatives that best express their political wills, and guarantees that the interests of everyone, including the poor, will be protected by the sheer preponderance of their numbers.

Due to the significance of General Elections, political campaigns draw significant crowds in many places. Those campaigns are most attractive when candidates of charism and zeal are nominated by contesting parties, with the followers of those parties adorned with colorful shirts, t-shirts and hats that express their party affiliations.

During voting long queues of voters gather at polling stations, many of them braving the sweltering heat or pouring rain as they patiently wait to cast their votes, hoping that the next batch of elected officials will bring positive changes in their lives.

This is but one side of the coin. Ideally, General Elections are expected to be an opportunity to avoid conflicts, but this too is never the case.

Since the late 1980s, regular elections have replaced military coups d'etat that had become the means of changing governments in the decade of the 1970s.

Despite the acceptance of democratic tenets in Africa, the animosities that fanned coups and wars in the past have never healed.

As a result, "elections have become the new battle grounds of power struggles between the ethnic, religious and other partisan interest groups."

The multi-party democracy that started in many African countries in the 1990s, instead of bringing hope, has remained ineffective.

Therefore, elections are among the contemporary concerns that generate extreme violence in the continent. Anne Celestine Achieng concurs:

While elections are used in many conflicted regions to end violence, in Africa they have become a source of internal strife and a death trap. 202 Human rights violations are rampant.

Demonstrations by the citizens to protest shambolic elections have been met by severe human rights abuse by the police, government militia and the army.

General and by-elections in many places are marked by violations of human rights that include the right to information, right to suffrage, right to life, right to peaceful demonstration, right to free speech, and right to free movement.

In response to the resultant election-time conflicts, some people have thought that the Church ought to have a role in keeping peace and securing justice.

However, others wonder whether the Church should cooperate with the State at all, because the latter uses violence against citizens. Still others have decided to completely abandon participation in election processes altogether.

It is important to examine the issue of Church-State relations in General Elections soberly. Let us take the opinions of St Augustine and St Thomas as our points of departure, because they perceive the State differently.

"If, with St Augustine, we believe that human beings are for the most part motivated by their selfish desires irrational passions and hatred then the State arises out of sin, a necessity to protect us from one another, to prevent anarchy, to secure at least rudimentary justice for all, and to defend the people, from outside aggression."

Unfortunately, from the experience of many African elections, Augustine's view of the State and civil society proves to be true, but not very positive.

On the other hand, "if with St Thomas Aquinas, we believe that while we are sinners we have a degree of natural goodness and are given reason that enables us to see and act towards our true ends in the temporal order, then the State is part of "God's plan for creation," which will protect us from injustice, and will itself attempt to nurture justice in service to the common good."

From the two, we find that St Thomas Aquinas has a more positive view of the State. The Church cannot just run away from the State, especially when the State perpetrates violence against its citizens.

As Clement Majawa argues, "The Church's role in politics is to be there visibly in the African context of socio-economic public policy formulation and witness. It has to be prophetic, speaking for God and for people."

In supporting the Church's presence during election-time, let us categorize factors that give rise to such violence in the first place.

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The Presidential Escort team

III. When Ballots Turn into Bullets

Despite arousing the people's enthusiasm and expectations for change of leadership, the actual election experience in some countries over the years has been the exact opposite. A few cases in selected countries will suffice to demonstrate this phenomenon.

In Nigeria, the electoral contest of 2010 turned into religious violence between Christians and Muslims.

In the Central African Republic, the 2000 election turned into full-blown Muslim-Christian conflict between the "Seleka," the Muslim group and the Christian "anti-balaka" militia. In the conflict between the two sides about three thousand civilians were killed.

In Kenya, the electoral violence of 2007 turned into an inter-ethnic crisis where the Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Luo ethnic groups fought one another. 208 In South Africa, the 2016, electoral violence turned racial, pitting the blacks against the white minority.

In Somalia in 2002 elections turned into clan violence. These instances give a clear picture of the situation in Africa.

The question is what triggers conflicts during elections? The following are some of the most common triggers: negative ethnicity, divisive politics or as some call it partisan politics, and weak judicial systems.


IV. Negative Ethnicity Politics

Africans are conscious of the fact that they belong to different ethnic backgrounds.

This diversity is a gift from God to all humanity, which we should cherish. It is sad that during elections ethnic sentiments and tensions are at the highest peak and become competitive.


In many African countries, the State is paralyzed by dysfunctional inter-ethnic and inter-faith relationships.

With a shortage of capital resources, selfish politicians regard joining politics as a sure means to accrue wealth, so that political activity goes together with an entitlement mentality.

Similarly, voters are convinced that when they elect someone from their home region it will be easier for them to access wealth, get employment and develop their particular areas faster.

Once elected, therefore, politicians are expected to show direct favoritism towards their constituents. Such favoritism is the gratitude that voters expect.

This is the genesis of skewed development in many African states. Affiliation with political leaders influences one's region's access to employment, for example, irrespective of academic or professional qualification.

This type of cronyism or favoritism promotes vices such as corruption, maladministration, lack of accountability and, worse, the secret extermination of State critics. In the end, incumbent politicians fight with all their means to change constitutions, and to prolong their terms in office.

Meanwhile, the people from other ethnic groups wait resignedly for elections to come so that they too can ascend to power..Those in power use all means to retain their seats, including rigging of votes. All the while, the common people's grievances are ignored and shunned by the ruling politicians.

View attachment 2901823

The banquet at Vatican

V. Divisive Politics

Elections are a legal and democratic means to secure legitimate power. However, when elections are marred with violence and chaos, it becomes difficult to ascertain whether the declared winners are indeed the legitimate representatives of the will of the people.

This explains why, at times, one gets the impression that multi-party politics was forced on Africa by the West. Of course, African governments in some countries had no choice but to accept multi-party in order to receive financial assistances.

When these countries embarked on multi-party democracy, they did not establish new structures to guarantee fair politics and level playing field for all the registered political parties.

As a result, ruling parties take advantage of existing constitutional gaps to harass other parties. Things are much worse in those countries where the president is at the same time the chairperson of the ruling party and head of State.

In such countries, where the president happens to be among contesting candidates, it is difficult to provide a fair ground for democratic elections.

The unfair political ground coupled with mistreatments of the opposition parties during election easily sparks violence.

In Africa, many ruling parties use divisive politics to stake a hold on to power. The party machinery identifies the loyalty and patriotism of its citizens in view of party affiliation rather than the welfare of the nation.

In such a scenario, opposing views are judged as betrayal to the nation state. In some countries, political diversity does not spearhead a culture for the people to cherish plurality of ideas and identities.

What the citizens observe is repeated storms of acts of bitter hatred across ethnic and regional divide that often erupt into verbal and even physical fights in parliaments.

It is not odd to spot some politicians tearing one another apart in a fashion of what the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), describes as Bellum omnium contra omnes - "a war of all against all."

This is unfortunate because multi-party democracy is supposed to provide a framework for aggregating the best of ideas from diverse interest groups into a national agenda.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace points out that, in these countries, "partisan politics have become so divisive and exclusionary that political parties that gain power ascribe to themselves the monopoly of knowledge."

We witness today in some African countries an attitude by ruling parties of the deprivation of equal rights of citizenship to members of alternative parties.

As a result, resentment and anger grow quickly, the desire for change is real, and it boils deep in the hearts of many. There lacks a national consensus and unity of purpose as far as the development priorities of the country are concerned.

In such a situation, Archbishop James Chiona of Blantyre Malawi warns, "Party politics are potentially divisive to the people of God. As such, the Church leadership is called not to join party politics, but must guide and bring sanity to party politics."

During election campaigns, political parties often come out in style with rebranded manifestos to sell to the voters. Carried on the campaign trail, manifestos outline the promises made by political parties informed by the electorate's prevailing realities. Often, however, such promises are exaggerated and not rooted in reality.

As would be expected, once these parties move from opposition into government they frequently cite limited knowledge of the pre-existing situation as a pretext to jettison whatever promises they had made on the campaign trail.

In Africa, general election campaigns are full of fanfare. Affluent parties, mainly those who are aware that the citizens are tired of them, use these campaigns to divert the attention of voters from real issues, by giving them items like t-shirts, hats, khangas and vitenges (special pieces of clothes worn by women mainly in Kenya and Tanzania), money and the like.

One wonders if it is just a coincidence that when the Arabs and Europeans came in to obtain slaves and to colonise the continent, they lured African chiefs with the same material benefits and trinkets.

What the people want is for their fundamental rights to be respected, including the freedom of worship, movement, opinion making and press/media.

Thus, the British statesman Lord Acton formulated that "freedom is the highest political end." 213 Alongside freedom, the citizens yearn for justice in all its three dimensions (contributive, commutative and restorative).

When politics operates with a sense of justice, the citizens live in peace and in harmony, and it is this harmony that makes it possible for participation (the right of citizens to be responsible for their welfare and to hold their leaders accountable).

Material goods such as t-shirts given free of charge during election campaigns act as "political anaesthesia" meant to manipulate the citizens and impair with their ability to vote for the most suitable candidate.

Politicians on the campaigns trail in Africa promise job opportunities, abundant food, low-cost housing, better health facilities, poverty eradication, and various freedoms for the people, among other things.

This raises high hopes, especially among the poor who are a majority in many areas. However, with time, as the new regime shows no signs of fulfilling its manifesto, most people become disillusioned.

Consequently, many Africans erroneously construe the government's shortcomings as the undesirable qualities of democracy.

In such an atmosphere of broken promises, people lose trust in the government. Indeed, young democracies in Africa have not satisfied the expectations of the people. With such a situation, disappointment is the mainstay of the voters.

Looking back on unfulfilled promises of the last election, they feel betrayed. Unfortunately, elected officials often get away with these failures time and again because of the absence of mechanisms of accountability for the citizens to hold them to their word.

Over time, the people have learned to distrust government promises because they do not reflect their real needs. In the midst of such hopelessness and distrust, some people still vote, as others choose to boycott voting since in their view the results are always predetermined.

Citizens are reduced to perplexed but muted bystanders in their own country because they are never taken seriously, and their needs are not addressed by those in the government.

This sorry situation of African politics is what led Wangari Maathai to write, "One of the major tragedies of postcolonial Africa is that the African peoples have trusted their leaders, but only a few of those leaders have honoured that trust."

View attachment 2905536

The Government and CCM team at Vatican

VI. Weak Judicial Systems

Another contributor to election violence in Africa is the inept judicial systems. Most African voters know that atrocities committed by politicians will not receive due attention in the courts of justice.

Therefore, their only recourse is to peaceful demonstrations and protests that usually turn violent due to excessive use of force by government security officers. The need for strong and independent judiciary systems is urgent, especially in Africa.

Today, contested election results have become common in many African countries.

As the former Secretary General of the United Nations, the late Kofi Annan, once stated:

Many African countries urge and long for democratic space, multi-party democracy and free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible elections; but when people go for multi-party elections, the results are often pot-holed and rejected. Then everybody becomes an expert of finding legal weakness, faults and interpretation surrounding the elections.

This leads to vicious legal battles in constitutional, high and supreme courts of the land.

The undesired outcomes of contested elections oftentimes include socio-political cycles of tensions, civil wars, destruction of property and loss of life. A strong and independent judiciary could help to avoid such violence.

The Kenyan experience is clear testimony of how an independent judiciary can help avoid post-election violence.

After the change of the constitution in 2010, the judiciary was given its autonomy which protected it from interference by the Executive.

During the national elections of 2017, tensions were high between the ruling Jubilee Party and the main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

The Supreme Court ruled that the presidential votes should be recounted. Although the ruling party was not happy with the Supreme Court ruling its obedience to the court ruling helped to calm the tensions and rescue the nation from the road to chaos.

The same thing happened in Malawi during the 2019 general elections. The ruling party was declared winner.

The main opposition party rejected the results, and Malawians went on to streets to protest the presidential results; a spree of violence was soon recorded.

The opposition party contested the presidential results before the high court, which found malpractices in the election process, and ordered a repeat of the elections.

In a turn of event, on 27 June 2020, Malawi's opposition leader, Dr Lazarus Chakwera was declared winner of the rerun presidential elections.

It was a dramatic reversal of incumbent Peter Mutharika's discredited win 13 months earlier, in a process that analysts viewed with great admiration as a triumph of democracy in Africa.

Kenya's opposition leader, Raila Odinga, commented that, "the election in Malawi is a symbol of hope for those who support democracy in Africa and around the world."

The ruling of courts in Kenya and Malawi helped to contain the mounting tensions resulting in peaceful assumption of power.

The firm and bold decision taken by these courts to protect justice earned both the Kenyan and Malawian supreme courts praise from all over the world.

However, it is unfortunate that, still in many African countries, judicial systems are weak and not independent. Too much power is concentrated in the executive, so that presidents are more of imperial chiefs than democratic leaders.

In some countries, one gets the impression that it is presidents who own states, not the citizens. Such a situation parallels a retreat to the Middle Ages, where the feudal kings like the French King Louis XIV (Louis Dieudonne, 5 September 1638-1 September 1715) appropriated the nation and the state all together.

The statement “Vetat c'estmoi," meaning "the State/Nation is mine," - "I am the state/nation" attributed to him, is an evidence of an absolute ruler.

He was the king of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history.

There is something of similarity between this king and the trends of the sitting presidents today in some African countries.

First is the tendency to stay longer in power than is allowed in constitution. Second is the tendency to consider themselves as God-given gifts to the people! Interestingly, the name of King Louis XIV, "Dieudonne," literally means "God-given."

And third, like King Louis XIV who was a public devout Catholic, some African presidents too, tend to attract public attention as "God-fearing" leaders, thus justifying their absolute power as a mandate from God.

In a situation like this, in modern nation states, citizens are left at the mercy of the ruling party and the president himself.

It is no wonder that the French feudal system was dismantled by the French Revolution in 1789, which called for a constitutional monarchy guided by values of liberty, equality and fraternity of all people.

A strong and independent judiciary is necessary even as international observers are equally important. The presence of such observers does not and cannot replace the judiciary. An example can be taken from Malawi's 21 May 2019 election again.

The polls were commended as free, fair and credible by regional bodies like SADC, COMESA, African Union and international organizations like United Nations, European Union and USA.

However, the Constitutional Court in Malawi found numerous electoral irregularities and nullified the election of President Arthur Mutharika.

The court then ordered fresh presidential elections while maintaining as valid the elections of members of parliament and local government councilors in the same tripartite general elections.

It is always important that the judiciary remains integral and free from the influence of State officials and their cronies.

Kofi Annan is quoted to have lamented that "the greatest enemy of democratization process in Africa is institutionalized corruption. Thus, we commonly hear people say: 'why hire a lawyer, if you can bribe a judge.”

The pertinent question here, in relation to the judiciary as an important organ where citizens can forward complaints such as election rigging is: if presidents of nation states and members of parliaments are elected why are judges not elected by the people?

According to a research done in different states in the US, "The citizens' preference is to elect their judges. This is the reality in the majority of the states."

However, in some states like Missouri, judges are elected by the people, while in others they are appointed by the governors.

The Supreme Court Judges in Washington DC, however, are appointed by a judicial commission, nominated by the president, and confirmed by the Senate.

In the British law system, Lord Chief Justices are appointed by a special panel convened by the judicial Appointment Commission.

Be it in United States, England or in any of the African countries, research findings show that respondents are divided into two sides. There are those who want elections and others who prefer appointment for judges.

For our part, we ascribe to the appointment model when it comes to judges. There are several reasons: first, we think that judges who are appointed through the commission of experts tend to be more professional candidates than those elected.

According to Steve Odland, the appointment system is better in order "to safeguard neutrality on the bench, states should move from electing to appointing judges - specifically, through nonpartisan commissions that select judges based on merit.”

Second, elections are marked with a lot of emotion, sentiments and conflict of interests. Judges have a code of ethics, and are not allowed to make campaign promises.

Third, the election costs can easily lead the judges to be corrupted and thus impair their rulings in courts.

The existence of an independent judiciary provisioned in a State's constitution is critical for people to have trust. At all times, it is imperative that justice be done visibly, not only in court rulings, but also in the judicial structures.

In some countries, a sitting president is also a candidate for re-election. If constitutions permit such presidents to appoint judges and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, they can interfere with the independence of the Judiciary.

A system of appointing judges through commissions where members are drawn from across a variety of groups strengthens judicial independence. Judges play an indispensable and honorable role, and they should not be intimidated.

The point is that the constitutions of African nation States need to be tailored in such a way as to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

One thing is clear, the citizens of these states "cannot look to the State or government for salvation or liberation, as a number of totalitarian regimes have promised.

Not only is the state itself infected with human sin and therefore incapable of redeeming lost human being; it tends to claim way too much for itself."

No effort should be spared to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. On this account, Robert Benne proposes that "citizens must be protected from the overweening power of the state by other powerful checks, such as constitutional law. The government must be limited by the consent of the governed."

Once people lose faith in the judiciary, aggrieved citizens have nowhere to turn for help, and take the law into their own hands.


View attachment 2905545
President Samia's Gift to the Pope

VII. Church during Election Time

We have stated that general elections are important events for citizens, and on that account the Church cannot stay aloof.

In addition, we have shown that elections especially in Africa breed violence; and sometimes cause death. As an institution that preaches the sanctity of human life, the Church advocates for free and fair elections, and in order for elections to be free and fair, the State needs to establish structures that promote healthy politics.

The State's constitution should protect the interest of all the political stakeholders. As enshrined in the constitution, there should be freedom of expression. Any attempt by the State to silence oppositional voices, prepares way for institutionalised corruption.

For example, without investigative journalism capable of exposing evils committed by State officials, citizens will be denied crucial information that could inform their choice of right leaders.

Politics is an on-going life determinant given that a human being is naturally a political being. The end of one election should be the beginning of the preparation for the next, since each political party should be free to expand and assess up the performance of the ruling party.

Non-Governmental Organization such as human rights groups, legitimately registered need to be allowed to assist the government at voting time.

External observers can monitor elections, providing political credibility on the part of the candidates. The invitation to assist by international observation mission should be a bona fide gesture of the State. It says "Come, dear partners, to verify our election is going to be free and fair."


situations where governments do not grant freedom to opposition parties to hold public and indoor meetings and where political grounds favour ruling parties, calling for general elections and inviting international observers at the last phase, of election amounts not only to fraud but it is also a simulatio summa, the highest degree of simulation; considering the fact that such a gesture is a mere cover up: the motive being just to please the international community for aids and loans.

Some people think that the Church is an alien player in the election process. This is an incorrect position. For nearly a century, the Church has encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate in electoral politics and vote with their conscience.

For only a short time in the late nineteenth century, after the emergence of mass democracy, the Church officially opposed the political participation of Catholic Italians due to the Vatican's disagreement with the newly created Italian State, and asked that Catholics become "neither elected nor electors."

With Pope Pius XI's encyclical “Mysterious City of God” promulgated on 23 December 1922, a role for lay Catholic organizations in the political process would eventually evolve into European Christian Democratic Parties.

As the Vatican began to encourage Italian and other European Catholics to vote, often in opposition to Communist parties, it began to take a more vocal role as a supporter of citizen politics.

Through its various dicasteries, it has released documents encouraging and supporting the Catholic faithful in active election in public discourse "...is not a marginal interest or activity, or one that is tacked on the Church's mission, rather it is at the very heart of the Church's ministry of service.... This is a ministry that stems not only from proclamation but also from witness."

Prior to every US presidential election since 1976, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a statement encouraging Catholics to vote and outlining Church teachings that are important to the political issues being debated.

The 1999 statement, Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium, acknowledged the constrained choices of the US political system and motivated people to participate in the election: "The new millennium should be an opportunity for renewed participation.

We must challenge all parties and every candidate to defend human life and dignity, to pursue greater justice and peace to uphold family life, and to advance the common good."

The short presentation above shows that as the Body of Christ, the Church has engaged in the election process. We shall examine more relevant cases of the Church's role in the election process.

Among those roles are: the formation of the Christian conscience, monitoring and mobilising for participation.
View attachment 2906559


VIII. Election Monitoring and Observation

General elections follow a process. There is the initial stage, then the preparation stage, the voting stage, counting and transmission of results, announcement of results, and post-elections resolutions. Using its Justice and Peace Commissions (Integral Development Commissions), the Church is keen and active in all stages of the process.

In Africa, many people in the rural areas do not think that voting is essential. A good number of those in urban centres simultaneously do not know how much politics affects all the areas of their lives.

In response to such apathy, the Church usually underscores the importance of registering and voting, using fliers, seminars, workshops and diocesan radio programmes.

In Africa since the late 1980s, the Church has been active in democratization processes. It has presided over constitutional conferences to chart the path from single-party or military dictatorships to multi-party democratic elections in several countries.

In Zaire during the last days of President Mobutu Sese Seko, the Catholic Church was asked to oversee the transition period.

Cardinal Laurent Pasinya Mosengwo was the chairman of the Transition Council until when power was handed over to the civilian President Laurent Desire Kabila.

In Burundi, the Church was heavily involved in the organisation of the 2010 communal (or local government) elections, at the behest of all the political parties. Indeed, thirteen out of the seventeen Provincial Election returning officers were Catholic priests selected by all the political parties.

Even though the opposition subsequently rejected the outcome of the elections and accused the Church of complicity in its loss, it nonetheless continued to emphasise that the Church was still the most credible organisation to mediate in the electoral dispute and the resultant political impasse between them and the government.

During the 2018 elections that saw the ascension of Etienne Tchisekedi to the presidency, many citizens of DRC had

wished for Joseph Kabila to step down. The former president had expressed interest to contest for presidency again. The Catholic Church staged peaceful demonstrations with the support of civilians.

In the process several priests and lay faithful were killed by the police. The international community intensified pressure for Kabila to rescind his bid for presidency.

He bowed to the pressure and retreated. In the context of African politics where rulers tend to change constitutions to stay longer in power, it seems the only fear such leaders have in so far as peaceful demonstration is concerned is the civil protests supported by the Church.

In West Africa we have a telling example on the Church's presence during elections for the common good in Ghana. Since 1992, the Church has been a member of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODECO), which has mobilised and deployed electoral observers across the country.

However, the Catholic Church's singular achievement came in 2008 when Cardinal Turkson, then Archbishop of Cape Coast, chaired the National Peace Council.

In addition to organizing all the presidential debates, the first in the history of Ghana, at the final debate in Tamale, Cardinal Turkson personally secured the commitment of all the presidential candidates to eschew violence and to accept the results of the elections, whether or not the outcome favored them.

Securing that public commitment would later prove vital when Ghana was on the brink of war on the eve of the December 2008 elections.

Cardinal Turkson evoked that commitment when civil society groups called on him personally to rush to Accra to intervene with the candidates of the two main parties. That intervention helped to resolve the electoral dispute and averted the violence that was set to erupt.

In some African countries, the Church's presence in monitoring of elections has been realised through Justice and Peace Commissions.

When Malawi was having its national general elections in 2019, the Justice and Peace Commissions of the AMECEA Secretariat in Nairobi were invited as observers on monitoring mission.

Learning from the 2007 ethnic clashes in Kenya, the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Kenya Catholic Bishops' Conference has been instrumental in providing civic education before elections.

In Zambia, the Justice and Peace Commission went one step further in the October 2011 elections. It ran a parallel vote collation exercise across the country.

The very close match between the JPC's collated results and that of the National Electoral Commission helped to improve transparency and make it more difficult for the sitting president to reject his election loss.
View attachment 2906571


IX. Formation of Christian Conscience

During elections the Church takes part in preparing and in encouraging people to vote for the leaders of their choice.

The Christian faithful are reminded about the mission of every believer, to be aware of our shared nature and the obligation to build up a society where human beings flourish together in justice and love. Catholics must vote, guided by the dictates of their conscience.

They must analyse the issues that each political candidate raises before the citizens and discern concrete and tangible propositions from false and empty political rhetoric.

It is important for citizens to be very alert during election campaigns and be especially wary of those candidates who harbour ill will and selfish intentions.

Some of these politicians loudly proclaim democratic ideals during campaigns, but in reality they cannot imagine a political system that actually offers free and equal representation to every contesting party.

The second letter of St Peter says it all about such cunning politicians, "They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him" (2 Pt 2:19).

In his book, Christianity and the Political Order: Conflict, Cooptation and Cooperation, Kenneth Himes, reminds Christians that moral participation requires the development and use of the virtue of prudence by which we make "wise judgements about right action, to determine how best to translate one's moral commitments into support for particular political leaders and policy choices."

Election manifestos and campaigns that mobilise citizens to observe peace without the necessary socio-economic and political transformation are a manifestation of political insincerity.

No sustainable peace can be achieved without doing justice to the citizens. The Church should not only amplify the voice of peace but also stand as a beacon of Gospel truth; by calling for justice to be done in the entire election process.

Always be informed by the candid words of prophet Jeremiah, 'peace, peace' they say though there is no peace. They are odious, they have done abominable things" (Jer 6:14-15).

Throughout the election process the Church should make a clarion call for the faithful to make the moral choice for candidates who uphold values that do not contradict the sanctity of human life, human dignity, freedom of worship, and care for the common good.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes it clear that one cannot support "intrinsically evil acts," among which are abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, destruction of embryos, torture, genocide, the deliberate targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks and racism.

The means by which we choose must be consistent with the good end we seek. For instance, it is downright sinful to elect a candidate who is involved in the killing of albino children, believing that albino organs will bring them good fortune during elections and tenure in office. Candidates who use their followers to abduct their opponents so that it becomes easier for them to win the election should also be shunned and arrested.

While proposing the choice of candidates through conscience, Kenneth R. Himmes outlines a series of "considerations in voting" relevant to living a "faithful citizenship." Among them are the following:

  • The voter assesses the "intelligence, temperament and character of the candidate."
  • The voter must study the "track record of activity" of the candidate to determine what their priorities truly are and where their moral priorities are on the issues of importance to faithful citizenship.
  • The voter must consider the political context to determine if the issues of importance are timely and feasible. Of course, one may need to be prophetic and raise the issue despite the probable lack of success in moving it forward, but one must evaluate the reasonableness of the politician's sense of timeliness for a specific issue. Part of politics is creating "timeliness" through the hard work of organising support for important issues.

Since the Church is present across the different stages of the election process, readers might wonder whether it is permissible in its advocacy to recommend a specific candidate to the Christian faithful. The answer is no. The Church calls us to evaluate carefully the policy positions of all the political candidates, according to the standard of the common good and dignity of each person.

This is derived from reasoned reflection on the nature of the human person and their well-being. When John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the United States, ran for the office, many Protestants were worried that once elected he would run his office by the directives from the Vatican.

His own response came out of the constitutional description that he swore to protect: "I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote."

Senator John Kennedy recognised this when he was addressing the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a gathering of Southern Baptist clerics, during his 1960 campaign.

The Protestant ministers, like the Catholic bishops, argued for both the right and duty of the Church to participate in the nation's public discourse.

As a citizen in a country whose State observed an absolute separation between Church and State, Kennedy made a powerful statement.

Formation of Christian conscience during and after elections is of paramount importance. Maurice Cardinal Otunga, former Archbishop of Nairobi, in 1992 cautioned that the Christian conscience needs to be formed properly. The Cardinal wrote:

“Conscience should be defined and guided by God himself in Church, government and State because there are authentic consciences and erroneous consciences depending on its formation. Where the conscience becomes the standard ethos and norm of guidance then there can be no conflict between Church and State, between religious belief and political decisions. Then the reign of God rules.”

This is because politicians who are Catholic have a challenging responsibility to support laws that uphold the dignity of every human person.

Laws passed in parliament that deny the citizens their rights to participate freely in their own destiny, all laws that violate the life and integrity of any person at any stage, from conception to death, are fundamentally unjust and must be opposed, not only on the ground of faith, but also by virtue of right reason.

Christianity demands that believers give a coherent witness to the Gospel in every facet of their lives.

It is expected of politicians of faith "to be attentive to the danger of living parallel lives whereby they compartmentalize their existence into spiritual and secular spheres. Neither should they confuse their personal opinion with a well-formed Christian conscience."
View attachment 2906586


IX. A Mobilizing Role

The future of Africa belongs to its young people, who are the majority population in the continent. It is a generation privileged with advanced technology that comes with unique opportunities and challenges.

It is a generation of diversity and plurality that will not readily accept the dominance of monolithic politics in its different facets: be it one party system rule, or over-stayed incumbency.

In the face of the African ruling elites who have closed the doors to desired change, however, many young people have become desperate, especially with ever rising unemployment rates, and college loans to repay.

As a result of such frustrations, a good number of young people in Africa find no meaning in voting.

In such a situation, the Church needs to mobilise young people to vote. As a privileged establishment that can win the hearts of the people easily, the Church has an extensive network.

No State institution has such penetration as the Church. "Church's structure and penetration in Africa represents an impressive reserve of foot soldiers that even the African Union cannot dream of.

That is why, as we have noted, the Church has been able to mobilise more election observers than the United Nations and African Union systems or even the Carter Centre."

Since the strength of the Church resides in the youth as St John mentions in his letter (cf. 1 Jn 2:14), it cannot stay aloof during elections.

The Church has to take the lead in urging the youth to assume their ethical role of voting for good leaders. The African Church must take the challenge that St John Paul II has placed to its teaching. "An authentic democracy, which respects pluralism, is one of the principal routes along which the Church travels together with the people, [...] is the sign of a Church which participates in the promotion of the rule of law everywhere in Africa."
View attachment 2906588
The only child (STD VII student) that escorted President Samia to the Vatican


X. Summary

In this chapter, we have strived to emphasise that national elections are crucial moments for modern nation states.

During elections, citizens get the opportunity to decide their destiny by voting, given that politics is very important for the welfare of the people.

We also have noted that, because national elections are important, from the African experience they can become an occasion for violence and bloodshed.

We mentioned some of the causes of violence during elections and explored what the Church does and can do to make a positive difference.

We have affirmed that the Church's participation in election is visibly evident in different ways: physical voting through its members who happen also to be citizens who are eligible to vote, material supply and distribution such as diffusing and delivering of civic education materials and leaflets and moral and spiritual assurance by providing spiritual support and ethical guidance to politicians and voters, as well as advocacy to the voiceless. Like their compatriots, bishops, priests, religious men and women are obliged to vote.

Across the various stages of the electoral process the Church prepares the people by offering civic education, and by educating about the Social Teaching of the Church.

The role of the Church is strategic since it has easy access to a great number of citizens in parishes and outstations through diocesan radios, newspapers, Sunday homilies, and fliers.

It is clear, therefore, that the Church is and can be instrumental in promoting free, transparent, and credible elections.

The presence of the Church is by itself a manifestation that it is naturally bound to politics and it is absurd for politicians to advance election campaigns to parishes, monasteries and convents, yet after being elected to office refuse to listen to Church ministers.

Dismissing prophetic utterances of pastors as God's mouthpiece deprives African politics of spiritual and ethical sanitizers.

Bringing morality into politics is the obligation of the Church. It has to motivate the lay faithful of sound education, of strong faith and of good conduct to seek political offices during elections, rather than remaining in the backyard. Sometimes Church leaders are seen at the forefront appealing for peace, but many conflicts during elections are caused by lack of justice.

All the conflicts during elections pose "a serious challenge to Catholic ethics because of the dichotomy established by the warring parties between peaceful resolution and just resolution of the impasse."

It is therefore important to realize that pleading for peace without addressing the injustices committed by parties cannot solve the problem. In fact justice and peace are major themes of the Catholic Social Teachings; "the opposition between them mires Church leadership in a political quandary."

African politics can only be transformed when the Church injects its spiritual and ethical charm into politics. It is always good to remember the warning of the Greek philosopher Plato, "the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics, is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

Politics can only be an integral and holistic service if it is run by intelligent leaders who are persons of good moral conduct. African Catholic bishops must be commended for the pastoral letters they write constantly to address various issues affecting society.

Borrowing a leaf from their brother bishops in the United States, the African hierarchy should issue pastoral letters at the time of General Elections to clarify pertinent issues and set direction for Christian voters.

Bishops should also strengthen the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Church in their pastoral engagement with the intention to mobilize voters to stand by the dictates of their conscience as they vote.

The importance of the Church's presence in elections, especially with the role of mobilizing the young and old to vote cannot be over stressed. The Church can be heeded when it calls for proper management of resources available.

A lot of money is stolen during election campaigns. As a matter of fact, resource governance remains a challenge in Africa. The struggle for resource control is one of the causes of intense political competition that often culminates in violent conflicts.

The tense state of people during elections gives one the impression that what is behind all the struggle is not a passion to serve, but to gain access to and control over resources.

General elections constitute a precious moment to any nation state. This chapter has underlined that the Catholic Church is a strong supporter of democracy. However, it must be more explicit in directing the citizens to vote and choose their political leaders.

Multi-party democracy provides alternative choice for the citizens to decide their political destiny. The State gains its legitimacy and support from the consent of the governed - the citizens.

It is so important that every effort is made to ensure electoral processes are as candid and open as possible. We have mentioned that it is important to concentrate not just on the final stage of voting, but also begin with healthy pre-electoral discourses.


In order to avoid or minimize disputes and conflicts, it is good to be aware of issues that contribute to electoral conflicts such as skewed electoral boundary demarcation, bloated voter registers, delays (planned and unplanned) in the delivery of electoral materials, inadequate training of electoral officers, the selection and positioning of biased electoral personnel, among others.

The Church and State should work together to address such issues before the date of voting.

Therefore, we are warned "to wait for the electoral day to observe the freedom, fairness and transparency of the elections is not only a waste of time, it could potentially add fuel to the fire as aggrieved groups would not be persuaded by the findings of the observation and monitoring teams."
View attachment 2906589


XI. Conclusion

In this chapter, we have striven to emphasize that national elections are crucial moments for modern nation states. During elections, citizens get the opportunity to decide their destiny by voting, given that politics is very important for the welfare of the people.

We also have noted that, because national elections are important, from the African experience they can become an occasion for violence and bloodshed. We mentioned some of the causes of violence during elections and explored what the Church does and can do to make a positive difference.

We have affirmed that the Church's participation in election is visibly evident in different ways: physical voting through its members who happen also to be citizens who are eligible to vote, material supply and distribution such as diffusing and delivering of civic education materials and leaflets and moral and spiritual assurance by providing spiritual support and ethical guidance to politicians and voters, as well as advocacy to the voiceless.

Like their compatriots, bishops, priests, religious men and women are obliged to vote. Across the various stages of the electoral process the Church prepares the people by offering civic education, and by educating about the Social Teaching of the Church.

The role of the Church is strategic since it has easy access to a great number of citizens in parishes and outstations through diocesan radios, newspapers, Sunday homilies, and fliers.

It is clear, therefore, that the Church is and can be instrumental in promoting free, transparent, and credible elections.

The presence of the Church is by itself a manifestation that it is naturally bound to politics and it is absurd for politicians to advance election campaigns to parishes, monasteries and convents, yet after being elected to office refuse to listen to Church ministers.

Dismissing prophetic utterances of pastors as God's mouthpiece deprives African politics of spiritual and ethical sanitisers.

Bringing morality into politics is the obligation of the Church. It has to motivate the lay faithful of sound education, of strong faith and of good conduct to seek political offices during elections, rather than remaining in the backyard.


Sometimes Church leaders are seen at the forefront appealing for peace, but many conflicts during elections are caused by lack of justice. All the conflicts during elections pose "a serious challenge to Catholic ethics because of the dichotomy established by the warring parties between peaceful resolution and just resolution of the impasse."

It is therefore important to realize that pleading for peace without addressing the injustices committed by parties cannot solve the problem. In fact justice and peace are major themes of the Catholic Social Teachings; "the opposition between them mires Church leadership in a political quandary."


African politics can only be transformed when the Church injects its spiritual and ethical charm into politics. It is always good to remember the warning of the Greek philosopher Plato, "the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics, is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

Politics can only be an integral and holistic service if it is run by intelligent leaders who are persons of good moral conduct.

African Catholic bishops must be commended for the pastoral letters they write constantly to address various issues affecting society.

Borrowing a leaf from their brother bishops in the United States, the African hierarchy should issue pastoral letters at the time of General Elections to clarify pertinent issues and set direction for Christian voters.


Bishops should also strengthen the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Church in their pastoral engagement with the intention to mobilize voters to stand by the dictates of their conscience as they vote.

The importance of the Church's presence in elections, especially with the role of mobilizing the young and old to vote cannot be over stressed.


The Church can be heeded when it calls for proper management of resources available. A lot of money is stolen during election campaigns.

As a matter of fact, resource governance remains a challenge in Africa. The struggle for resource control is one of the causes of intense political competition that often culminates in violent conflicts.

The tense state of people during elections gives one the impression that what is behind all the struggle is not a passion to serve, but to gain access to and control over resources.

General elections constitute a precious moment to any nation state. This chapter has underlined that the Catholic Church is a strong supporter of democracy. However, it must be more explicit in directing the citizens to vote and choose their political leaders.

Multi-party democracy provides alternative choice for the citizens to decide their political destiny. The State gains its legitimacy and support from the consent of the governed - the citizens.

It is so important that every effort is made to ensure electoral processes are as candid and open as possible. We have mentioned that it is important to concentrate not just on the final stage of voting, but also begin with healthy pre-electoral discourses.

In order to avoid or minimize disputes and conflicts, it is good to be aware of issues that contribute to electoral conflicts such as skewed electoral boundary demarcation, bloated voter registers, delays (planned and unplanned) in the delivery of electoral materials, inadequate training of electoral officers, the selection and positioning of biased electoral personnel, among others.

The Church and State should work together to address such issues before the date of voting.

Therefore, we are warned "to wait for the electoral day to observe the freedom, fairness and transparency of the elections is not only a waste of time, it could potentially add fuel to the fire as aggrieved groups would not be persuaded by the findings of the observation and monitoring teams."


Compiled by

Dr. Mama Amon
The CEO
Dawati la Utafiti la Mama Amon (DUMA)
SLP P/Bag
"Sumbawanga Town"
Sumbawanga


Fr. Jordan Nanyembe PhD. a Catholic priest from the Mbinga diocese in Tanzania bring to us his latest book termed as a master piece of work everyone must read it :

Book Launch, Church & state Relations by Fr. Jordan Nyenyembe senior Lecturer at Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA), Gaba Campus



View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X6XvjK6Sz6o
Book reviewer says this book by Fr. Nyenyembe demystify politics ....
Source : capuchin tv
 
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