Acts of violence, looting and beheadings in a Country on the brink of civil war, worsened by a political crisis that remains unresolved. “The situation in Congo’s Democratic Republic precipitated into a crisis in December, when President Kabila decided to stay in power despite the end of his mandate, thereby preventing new elections”, said Congolese Fr Joseph Mumbere, Provincial Superior of the Combonian Missionaries: “Kabila not only remained in office; he also tried to change the Constitution but didn’t succeed, thanks to protests and to pressures from the international community. This caused great confusion at institutional level.”
Yet the Church has been actively involved to promote a peaceful transition.
There was an attempt to dialogue with a view to holding elections as soon as possible.
The first attempt failed, but the second, promoted by the bishops, resulted in a deal that brought together all interested parties, in the opposition and the majority camp alike.
However, some issues, such as the appointment of the government tasked with preparing for elections, are yet to be defined. This led to a standstill.
Have also the Churches been object of violence?
There is an intention to foment chaos in order to foil elections. In the past days Church structures were under attack in Kinshasa, in Kasai as well as in Lubumbashi. Churches and seminaries were attacked by groups of youths who accuse the bishops of having left too much time to Kabila and not having obliged him to appoint a Prime Minister.
The truth is that it looks more like a game orchestrated to create a state of emergency to prevent elections.
Is there a political responsibility also in the attacks? Young people are given free rein in attacks against churches. This is strange, because during the protests police officers promptly intervene. We hope that the forces in power are not behind the attacks against churches…
Are missionaries safe? At the moment we’re not in danger. But we are aware that the situation could spin out of control. Some bishops are appealing to caution, in the awareness that violence, fomented and hard to control, could escalate. We fear there is an intention to create a state of emergency in the Country.
What do you expect from the International Community?
To continue exerting pressure on the President so he may act upon the agreement. That’s the gist of the problem.
The agreement has more or less pacified all interested parties. If a new government is created, then there will be new elections.
If not, future developments are unpredictable.
During the Angelus prayer the Pope renewed his appeal “to take adequate and timely decisions to assist our brothers and sisters” in Congo. We are deeply grateful to the Holy Father. His calls for peace in conflicting world areas have delivered positive results. The Pope’s appeal brings to the world’s attention the situation we are suffering in Congo, which is poorly covered in the press.