“Despicable, violent”: Catholic Bishops in DR Congo on Crackdown on Protesters

Mons. Donatien Nshole, reading the message of members of the National Episcopla Conference of Congo (CENCO). Credit: CENCO

The reported use of force on peaceful protesters demanding better living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has caught the attention of Catholic Bishops who have described the May 20 police excesses as “despicable and violent”.

According to Africanews May 23 report, several persons were beaten up, manhandled, robbed, and arrested by the police following a protest by opposition supporters denouncing the high cost of living in the Central African nation.

In a statement issued Monday, May 22, members National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) say they condemn “with the utmost energy all these crimes as well as the violence that followed, wherever it came from.”

They denounce the “despicable and violent repression that the police and their militia accomplices inflicted on the protesters, including the minors found on their way.”

“We greatly need the forces of law and order on the front lines to secure the country and not to harass the population in the cities,” Catholic Bishops in DRC add.


They expect “competent authorities to take concrete action, beyond the media promises of investigations and justice (to which we are accustomed and which often remain unfulfilled), in order to put this whole series of easily identifiable thugs out of action.”

The Catholic Church leaders urge the Congolese people “not to give in to fear in the face of barbarism organized to intimidate”.

“If nothing is done to guarantee their fundamental rights, they will soon have to exercise their power to sanction all the incompetents,” CENCO members say.

The May 23 Africanews report indicates that the police “blamed the protesters for not respecting the itinerary established by the governor of the city of Kinshasa, Gentiny Ngobila.”

According to the police, the protest was supposed to take place in the north of the capital, but the protesters gathered in a restricted neighborhood in the center of the city.

More in Africa

In their May 22 collective statement, Catholic Bishops in DRC deplore the fact that “the Governor of the city of Kinshasa authorized these protests on the same day and at practically the same time, especially the fact of having verbally changed the itinerary planned by the political opposition barely 24 hours before.”

“This bordered on provocation insofar as the change was likely to disrupt the organizers' planning,” CENCO members say.

In their seven-point statement, Catholic Bishops in DRC decry the fact that “many protesters marched with bladed weapons (machetes, sticks, stones...) in full view of the police without being stopped.”

“Worse still, some elements of the National Police were carrying the same tools of violence that they were visibly exchanging with individuals in civilian clothes,” they add.

In carrying out their “macabre act”, Catholic Bishops in DRC say the police “did not hesitate to fire live ammunition, even aiming at the vehicle of a political leader.”


Tension is still high in DRC ahead of general elections scheduled for December 20.

On May 5, CENCO members called on the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to seek the expertise of “an independent body with experience” alongside “a few national experts” to audit the country’s voter register.

On their part, church leaders in the Central African nation proposed transparency in funding as one of the electoral reforms they want to be implemented ahead of general elections.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.