On March 11, 2021, EISA organised a videoconference to reconnect and orientate those CSOs committed to advocating for the electoral reforms through the Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise. The coalition is led by Agir-pour-des-Eletions-Transparentes-et-apaisées (Arc 24), Comité Laïc de Coordination, Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix/CENCO, SYMOCEL, Reseau Gouvernance Economique et Démocratie, Centre Africain Paix et Gouvernance and Les Congolais Debout, All these attended the video conference.
The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange views on the political context and share ideas on pursuing electoral reforms. Participants agreed that it is critical to consider the general environment, how to orient their reform strategy and what the priorities should be in advocating for electoral reforms. There was an intense discussion whether the advocacy for reforms should commence immediately or wait until the appointment of the INEC members. This has led to a polarisation amongst the CSOs. EISA encouraged the CSOs to deepen their analysis and adjust their strategy. EISA also proposed that a steering committee be put in place to drive the process.
The meeting further agreed to engage with leaders of faith-based organisations to ensure that there is an agreement on how to take the process of electoral reforms forward before the March parliamentary session scheduled for 15 March commenced.
Following the video conference and the issues that emerged, three further meetings were held to find consensus on the way forward. The meetings were held on 17-19 March 2021. CSOs evaluated their strategy on electoral reforms and how to accommodate the different views of those CSOs advocating for continuing with the electoral reform process and those CSOs proposing that it should wait until the appointment of the INEC. EISA has been careful to stay out of the debate and rather play a facilitative role. EISA draws attention to the pros and cons of each option to help them find consensus.
The state of emergency declared at the end of March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health measures announced, followed by the lockdown of the commune of Gombe in May, limited the space the planned activities, particularly advocacy and lobbying meetings as physical contact was discouraged or restricted. The four Election Observation Missions that make up the Consortium supported by EISA, continued to analyse and deepen the preparatory workshop of the National Forum.
With EISA's technical support, and adapting EISA's communication strategy, SYMOCEL has proactively communicated with the public on the national political agenda with its flagship initiative, the National Forum for Electoral Reforms. SYMOCEL promptly reacted to the presidential suggestion for a national reflection on electoral reforms through a statement widely broadcast in national and international media (including Radio France International), the day after the President's call.
In addition, the communication strategy developed by EISA/PROCEC for the Consortium, focused on promoting the Consortium and its objectives and mobilising support for the Forum highlighting its national and inclusive identity. The communication strategy includes the marketing conducted in the period before the Forum was established, (to be continued when the corona virus lockdown is lifted), the Forum's coverage, and the support communication of the subsequent advocacy initiatives. These were the basis on which the plan was formulated.
16-17 & 24-25 Nov 2020
To increase the impact of advocacy for electoral reforms a few CSOs, including Nouvelle Société Civile, ARC24, and SYMOCEL, organised two workshops to disseminate the electoral reforms amongst academics and at provincial and local level. ARC24 focused mainly on engaging academics and Nouvelle Société and SYMOCEL worked at the provincial and local.
The workshops that took place in Mbandaka and Matadi, from the 16 to the 17 November 2020, and in Lubumbashi from the 24 to the 25 November 2020, resulted in the acceptance of the electoral reforms and a sense of ownership by the participants.
2 & 4 Nov 2020
PROCEC scheduled several meetings with electoral stakeholders in general, and with politicians directly involved in electoral reforms in particular, as part of the advocacy for implementing electoral reforms. Working sessions were held with decision-makers, including parliamentarians, to discuss the reforms and provide them with the benchmark for the common electoral reforms proposals of CSO. A delegation from the CSOs weas able to secure a meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi that took place on the 2 November 2020, and with the President of the Senate on the 4 November 2020, where they handed over the common proposal for electoral reforms. These meetings were an indication of the respect that CSOs are given and the seriousness with which their advocacy for electoral reforms is regarded.
7 & 21 Oct 2020
PROCEC organised two working sessions, on October 7 and 21, 2020, devoted to discussions on popular mobilisation and dissemination strategies for the common proposals for electoral reforms to be adopted by civil society organisations committed to the reform process. Participants agreed to organise further working sessions to continue this process.
26-29 Sep 2020
After the harmonisation of electoral reforms by the CSOs and the adoption of the CSOs' common approach, PROCEC engaged an external national consultant to assess how the recommendations fit with the DRC's existing legal architecture and provide a legal formulation for this common approach. A face-to-face seminar, observing COVID protocols, was held in Kisantu (province of Kongo Central), from September 26 to 29, 2020 attended by 16 people, (two women) to review and validate the consultant's report. This report will be used as the basis of developing an electoral reforms advocacy plan that will improve the future Congolese electoral process.
9-12 Sep 2020
PROCEC organised the "National Days for Electoral Reforms" workshop from September 9 to 12, 2020 for the Consortium and its partners. The aim was to engage all stakeholders in arriving at shared recommendations on electoral reforms within the framework of sub-regional, regional and international norms and standards.
Participants discussed the CSOs electoral reforms proposals, adopted common proposals on how to improve future DRC electoral process, and adopted a roadmap for the advocacy of the electoral reforms. This intervention was inclusive and representative with about 130 people from Kinshasa and around 40 CSO's members from the provinces attending each of these the workshops by video conference. A broad spectrum of Congolese society was represented, including representatives of government institutions, civil society organisations interested in electoral matters; political parties and political groups; technical and development partners; youth and women's movements; and diplomatic missions.
An outcome of this workshop was the adoption of a common civil society understanding on electoral reforms, the establishment of a large citizen base around electoral reforms and the adoption and signing, by more than 60 participating organisations, of a declaration of commitment to collectively, or individually, support the pursuit of advocacy for electoral reforms in the DRC.
12-15 & 27 Aug 2020
The conduct of an inclusive, robust, and effective advocacy for electoral reforms required an alliance with other civil society organisations. PROCEC supported SYMOCEL and the Consortium to convene a workshop from August 12 to 15, 2020 focused on consolidating the alliance and harmonising the electoral reform proposals. A further workshop, dealing with the validation and adoption of the CSOs harmonised proposals, was held on August 27, 2020. These harmonised proposals on electoral reforms form the basis of the Consortium as well as other CSOs engaged in advocating electoral reforms.
The outcomes of these two workshops were threefold, namely:
28 Jul 2020
On July 28, the Consortium, with the technical assistance of EISA, attended a meeting to harmonise the organisational aspects of the National Forum hosted by Diakonia, a Swedish NGO. While the invitation was extended to several organisations and institutions, participants mainly included representatives from the University of Liege, Belgium and donors from the EU-KINSHASA, the Swedish Embassy in Kinshasa and the Embassy of Germany. Nine people participated in the face-to-face meeting, observing Covid-19 protocols, and six participated via video conferencing.
The Consortium presented the objective of the National Forum, that is to offer an inclusive and representative caucus for stakeholders, and to discuss and identify the necessary and realistic priority reforms of the electoral system.
As many similar initiatives are in place, donors attending this meeting insisted on the need for the Consortium to organise a single and inclusive forum where political parties and civil society can discuss and reach consensus on the type and extent of electoral and institutional reforms to undertake. The Consortium was already in discussions with other organisations working on electoral reforms in order to synchronise efforts rather than compete with each other. The objective was to bring these organisations together and build a consensus on electoral reforms needed and a common strategy to advocate for these reforms. With the technical support of EISA, the Consortium has engaged in coalition building to broaden its base. The Consortium identified other stakeholders, particularly civil society organisations and political parties interested in electoral reforms.
23 Jul 2020
The controversy of the appointment of the president of the Electoral Commission highlighted once more the need for a consensus on mechanisms to build democratic institutions. For this reason, the Consortium developed and adopted, on 23 July, a comprehensive roadmap regarding convening the National Forum as a platform to enable stakeholders to agree on the reform process.
The National Assembly is a key actor in the electoral reform process. With the technical assistance of EISA, the members of the Consortium participated in sessions of the National Assembly from March to June 2020 and, more particularly, in the work of the Political, Administrative and Legal Commission (PAJ).
Face-to-face meetings within parliament allowed the Consortium to familiarise itself with the functioning of the National Assembly, as well as engage members of the PAJ. Even though the sessions were not devoted to electoral reforms, the delegates of the Consortium conveyed the importance of electoral reforms being considered by the National Assembly in its review, not only of the electoral laws, but all laws including the ongoing debates of the inclusion the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities, the rights of indigenous peoples and the creation of anti-corruption agency. This interaction has enabled members of the Consortium to improve their advocacy strategy for electoral reforms as well as to reach out to a number of parliamentarians, who have agreed to participate in the National Forum.
A workshop organised by the National Institute for Democracy (NDI) in March attended by key Congolese CSO actors, created an opportunity for the Forum to spread its message. The workshop received extensive media coverage, giving the Forum good visibility that it can now build on.
16-21 Mar 2020
As part of the planned preparatory activities ahead of the Forum, an educational workshop was convened to clarify the thematic, articulations, speakers of the forum, etc. The sessions chaired by EISA, with the support of the Consortium leaders resulted in a comprehensive structuration of how the Forum will be conducted. A provisional agenda and key thematic of plenary sessions and panels were set up, as well as potential panelistspanellists and facilitators. Working committees were set up and the communication and marketing strategy were also defined.
11 Mar 2020
EISA encouraged the Consortium, as part of its strategy, to construct alliances and partnerships with other CSO groups to draw the largest civil society support for the Forum and its subsequent advocacy implementation. A workshop brought together more than 20 representatives of key CSOs working on electoral and governance matters.
Discussions were held on the electoral and institutional reforms recommended by the Consortium and provided an opportunity for participants to share opinions, suggestions and considerations relating to the Consortium. The CSOs agreed to support the Consortium's work by signing an act of goodwill and engagement.
Since January 2020, the Consortium has held over 17 working sessions and continuous guidance provided to build trust, teamwork and capacity. Expected to be inclusive and representative of all stakeholders, a conference was scheduled for March, but had to be postponed due to the virus.
The conference will bring together political, institutional and civil society stakeholders, researchers, experts, MPs and representatives from provinces for constructive talks. The objective is to reach a consensus on reforms and amendments needed to improve the electoral system in line with international and regional standards.
More practically, the conference will enable participants to examine the available various contributions and proposed reforms from EOMs, the CENI, academics, practitioners and political parties.
The Forum has evoked a strong interest among stakeholders and is expected to be supported by President Felix Tshisekedi, hence the Consortium plays a big role in the success of the Forum.
A thorough power analyse and drafting interactive map of targets enabled the Consortium to strategically meet with key authorities in charge of the electoral system and with key political actors. These included the ministries of Justice and Home affairs (the 2 tutelar ministries in charge of electoral affairs), the ministry-special advisor to the President, the director of the Prime Minister's Cabinet, former presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, the secretary general of MLC (key opposition party). Political actors who have made reforms proposals have also been met.
The objective of these meetings and public relation actions was to promote the Forum as the ideal opportunity to discuss on consensual election reforms for the benefit of the country's political system.
19 Feb 2020
The Consortium and EISA presented the advocacy initiative's progress and achievements to a panel of high-profile European Union experts and USAID on 19 February, held at the Belgium Embassy in DRC. There were among others the development cooperation officers in addition to the political affairs manager of Belgium Embassy, France, the Netherlands, the USA, USAID, etc.
The presentation provided an opportunity to showcase the extent the Congolese Civil society actors' capacity and engagement have effectively contributed to the improvement of the electoral system in DRC. The panel expressed great interest in the Forum as a vehicle to drive the electoral reforms and to contribute to lessening political tension in the country.
Following the holding of the National Forum, as a key step of the advocacy strategy that EISA/PROCEC with SYMOCEL developed, it became clear that it was necessary to extend the partnership and include the Catholic Church through the Episcopal National Commission of Congo (CENCO) and other main active national election observation missions.
The SYMOCEL leadership successfully reached out to the technical implementer of CENCO, the Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix (CEJP/CENCO), and the EOMs of Agir pour des Elections Transparentes et Apaisées (AETA) and of Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC). These influential organisations have agreed to work as a consortium to support the electoral reforms advocacy campaign and the Forum, with EISA/PROCEC's facilitation and technical support.
Given unsuccessful Congolese CSOs collaboration attempts in recent years, this Consortium is seen as a bold initiative and raises much hope. EISA's experienced guidance not only makes it possible to pool civil society efforts for a robust advocacy, but also strengthens citizens expertise on how to sustain a coalition.
Key achievements are the agreement of the recommendations of the respective EOMs, and the adoption of the Terms of Reference of the National Forum, which includes the objectives and the expected results.
It is important to emphasise that this forum is the first of its kind since the political alternance in DRC, filling a dire need: providing a space for a republican dialogue on key political issues.
21-23 Jan 2020
Noting the need to have a comprehensive understanding of legislative drafting techniques for an electoral reform advocacy campaign, EISA appointed two experts to work with SYMOCEL.
A national legal consultant reviewed, deepened and analysed SYMOCEL's election recommendations, previously prioritised and refined during two workshops held in September and December 2019.
An international legislative expert was appointed to equip SYMOCEL with bill drafting skills, during a three -day workshop held in Kinshasa. This session provided a broad overview on legislative drafting, principles and rules. Initially planned for law specialists only, all SYMOCEL interested focal points attended, allowing for knowledge sharing. The training combined theory with practical exercises.
Participants were familiarised with parliamentary law-making, its voting system, how to construct and use effective influence gears its working, well as all technical and normative requirements for drafting good quality bills.
3-9 Dece 2019
PROCEC/EISA facilitated a three-day strategic and operational workshop held on 3-5 December 2019, assisting SYMOCEL to draw out the main areas of its advocacy campaign that it will conduct over a six-month period.
The working sessions (8-9 Dec) with the advocacy team resulted in a clearer operational strategy, refined recommendations, deeper analysis of problematic provisions to be reformed in the legal framework (those incomplete, unclear, vague, etc.), as well as an action plan and a logical framework, covering the period January to June 2020. EISA/PROCEC, has also enabled SYMOCEL to set the tools needed for the advocacy call for action, as well as develop a communication strategy and methodology for the advocacy campaign messages. The sessions also focused on identifying appropriate institutions, partners and allies to work with for an inclusive advocacy campaign.
With EISA's support, SYMOCEL designed a comprehensive advocacy document of its recommendations arising from the 2018 - 2019 elections which was widely disseminated. The document highlighted the change expected in the electoral architecture, the related issues and challenges emerging from the elections, proposed amendments to the legal framework t and the regional and international best practices. A press conference was held on 22 October 2019 to officially launch the recommendations attended by prominent guests including parliamentarians, political party representatives, lawyers etc. The launch received substantial coverage by key national and international media outlets. The advocacy document will be shared with key stakeholders such as the parliament, the Presidency of the Republic, CENI, the government, political parties, diplomats etc.
On 18 and 19 September 2019, attended by the EISA Executive Director, EISA organised a preparatory workshop on the advocacy campaign for monitoring of the electoral process for SYMOCEL. The general objective of this workshop was to define the activities to be conducted in the framework of the advocacy for electoral reforms, their formulation, implementation and follow-up, as well as the monitoring of the electoral cycle in order to improve the electoral process in the management of future elections. EISA's support has enabled SYMOCEL to identify its advocacy campaign to be conducted and define a strategy for monitoring the electoral cycle; to agree on synergies with other stakeholders in the electoral process, and exchange experiences on the awareness campaigns with other partners.
As a follow up of the workshop, EISA organised working sessions focusing on the analysis of the recommendations made by the SYMOCEL EOM and to identify and prioritise the proposed reforms and provisions of the legal framework. In addition, the working sessions also focused on identifying appropriate institutions, partners and allies to work with on the advocacy campaign.
9 Aug 2019
On 9 August, EISA organised a workshop using the Advocacy Guide developed under PROCEC I to ensure a consistent approach to advocacy campaigns under PROCEC 2.
To strengthen SYMOCEL's ability to conduct post election reforms, in June EISA assisted SYMOCEL in drafting an advocacy action plan. The advocacy plan identified relevant electoral reforms; selected advocacy partner; agreed on activities for the formal and informal advocacy campaigns; and developed a timeline. To finalise and validate the action plan, EISA organised a workshop during which the objectives and techniques of advocacy campaigns and the challenges that may arise, were identified. It is anticipated that through this support SYMOCEL will be able to conduct efficient, effective and professional advocacy for electoral reforms.
In May EISA organised a two-day working session with SYMOCEL to discuss key elements to observe during the post election phase. This working session also evaluated the relevance of the advocacy campaign that the SYMOCEL EOM intends carrying out in the post-electoral phase.
The working session was useful in that EISA was able to transfer knowledge and equip SYMOCEL with the necessary tools to the observe post election phase, as well enable the SYMOCEL to transform its electoral observation exercise into advocating for initiating and implementing electoral reforms.