, 05 May, 2020 / 5:12 AM
Religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are seeking a revision of the modalities put in place by the country’s President for the management of COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, which is headed by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo.
They have faulted the modalities of managing the National Solidarity Fund for the Fight against COVID-19 (FNSCC) as currently framed saying there is a level incompatibility with their spiritual leadership role in society when they have to engage in managing public funds. They suggest the establishment of a “Consultative Council.”
“The heads of religious denominations, who are willing to contribute in the fight against COVID-19, have realized that the modalities of collaboration as stipulated in the ordinance are incompatible with their status as spiritual leaders. Above all, it is about their direct involvement in the day-to-day management of public funds,” the religious leaders stated in their collective statement dated May 1 and signed by their Secretary General, Fr. Donatien Nshole.
On April 22, DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi appointed the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Ambongo as head of the FNSCC and Pastor André Bokondoa as his deputy.
In their collective Press Release, the faith-based leaders explained, “Cardinal Ambongo who is also the Vice-President of the Episcopal Conference of DR Congo (CENCO) and Pastor Bokondoa requested a meeting with the Head of State to consider the possibility of amending certain provisions of his appointments of April 22 by adding a Consultative Council.”
According to the religious leaders, “this Consultative Council that the President and the Vice-President of the Platform of Religious Denominations agree to lead will regularly monitor the management of the FNSCC and will give its advice to the President of the Republic for the good management of the funds and materials collected.”
Created on April 6 by President Tshisekedi, FNSCC exists to put together resources that will support various initiatives including the support for medical personnel and services in hospitals.
The Solidarity Fund has also been set up to finance essential supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPEs) for the population and health workers who are on the front line throughout the country.
FNSCC will operate during the entire period of the state of health emergency that was declared by President Tshisekedi on March 24. The State, public or private companies and donors are expected to contribute to the Fund.
To replace the religious leaders appointed at the helm of the solidarity fund, the members of the Platform of Religious Denominations have proposed that President Tshisekedi appoints reputable people with relevant expertise in the day-to-day management of public funds.
“The Religious Denominations have recommended to the Head of State credible and competent technicians that he may appoint,” the faith-based leaders stated, adding, “these experts will provide their expertise without engaging the religious denominations.”
“These amendments were accepted by President Félix Tshisekedi who received the faith-based leaders of the Central African nation on Thursday, April 30,” the leaders revealed in their May 1 collective statement.
The desire to involve religious leaders directly, with Cardinal Ambongo at the head of the FNSCC, was a way for the government to reassure the beneficiaries of the funds to be raised for the fight against the Coronavirus on the transparency in the management, President Tshisekedi explained.
“By placing men of God in the management of the FNSCC and members of civil society, Félix Tshisekedi expects that the 80 million Congolese will find satisfaction in the management of those who are supposed to preach by example,” President Tshisekedi stated April 22.
The appointment of religious leaders was meant to guarantee “transparency in management, traceability of assistance operations, and control of all donations intended for the response to COVID-19 throughout the national territory.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa