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Civic education crucial ahead of poll, official says

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BRUSSELS, 29 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Civic education ahead of elections scheduled for June is of "utmost importance" to sensitise the public for the democratic process, the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Independent Electoral Commission, Apollinaire Malumalu, has said.

Speaking on Tuesday in Brussels at a hearing organised at the European Parliament, Malumalu said the commission, known by its French acronym CEI, had proposed a US $40-million budget to international donors for the sensitisation of the public.

"The donors then indicated their preference for a direct funding of the civil society instead of the CEI," he said. "So far, nothing has been done. Human resources are there, only the funding is lacking."

Nevertheless, he said, some contracts had been signed between the CEI and community radios in order to present what is at stake during the next elections.

"The CEI could also support limited activities, like the popularisation of the electoral law," he said.

The CEI, he said, was trying to "relaunch the debate in order to know who does what".

He said the CEI would hold an open-door day in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on 10 April to showcase itself and to invite civil society partners to present their projects in the field of the civic education.

"Only coordinated actions will prove their efficiency," Malumalu said.

He added that different churches had already implemented a common programme. In 2005, the Roman Catholic Church had published documents including an illustrated voter guide.

Some initiatives are also underway in eastern Congo. Last week, also in Brussels, Patient Bagenda of the Comite Anti-Bwaki of Bukavu, South Kivu Province; and Simon-Pierre Iyananio Molingi of the Diocese of Kasongo in Maniema Province, described the initiatives of civil society to sensitise the public to the democratic process.

Among these initiatives, the two said, was the "Nucleus of Democratic Radiation", comprising small groups of people present for many years in all the territories of South Kivu, and the recent instruction of 5,000 leaders in the Territory of Kasongo in order to inform the public including those in the most remote locations.

"In Kasongo the people don't have any access to the media, even [the UN-supported] Radio Okapi," Iyananiyo said.

He said for many years, the Church has had to take the role of the state. "Now it's time that the Congolese state revives, that's the reason why the elections are so important," he said. "For the Christians, they represent a moral obligation, but we don't give any instruction for the vote."


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