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Congolese Bishop Condemns Greed for Land, Natural Resources after Diplomat’s Murder

Bishop Sébastien-Joseph Muyengo Mulombe of DRC’s Uvira Diocese

A Catholic Bishop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has blamed the increased attacks in the country on the greed for natural resources and land, especially by “foreign groups” in the country who, he says, are trying to push indigenous people out of their homes.

In a report to Agenzia Fides following the killing of Luca Attanasio, the Italian Ambassador to the Central African nation, Bishop Sébastien-Joseph Muyengo Mulombe of DRC’s Uvira Diocese also condemns the killing of the diplomat whom he described as a friend who “loved the Congo and the Congolese very much.”

“What happened is terrible,” Bishop Mulombe says in reference to the killing of the Ambassador, Italian policeman Vittorio Iacovacci and the Congolese driver Mustafa Milambo.

The three were killed on February 22 when militants attacked their convoy in Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC.  

Making reference to a series of attacks that have been carried out in various parts of the country, the Bishop adds, “Behind all these wars in Ituri, North and South Kivu, on the high plateaus of Uvira, Fizi and Mwenga, is in reality the attempt to grab land that has always belonged to indigenous populations on the part of foreign groups from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.”

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The “foreign groups” from DRC’s neighbours, Bishop Mulombe notes, kill people in the villages to force them to flee elsewhere and then occupy their land.

More than one hundred armed groups, such as the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are believed to operate in the Eastern region of the DRC.

The presence of foreign peacekeepers has not deterred the groups of militias from conducting attacks on innocent civilians.

The United Nations estimates that there are currently 4.5 million internally displaced persons in the DRC, and more than 800,000 DRC refugees in other nations.

According to the Global Conflict Tracker (GCT), the origins of the current violence in the DRC are in the massive refugee crisis and spillover from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. After the Hutu fled to Eastern DRC and formed armed groups, opposing Tutsi and other opportunistic rebel groups arose.

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GCT also reports that the country’s massive resource wealth, estimated to include $24 trillion of untapped mineral resources, has also been said to further fuel the violence as the mineral trade provides financial means for groups to operate and buy arms.

DRC’s interior ministry blamed the murder of the Italian Ambassador and his companions on members of FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has plagued the region for more than a quarter of a century, an allegation that was reportedly refuted by the militant group.

In his Thursday, February 25 report to Agenzia Fides, Bishop Mulombe says, “It seems that the attackers spoke Kinyarwanda (a language used mostly by Rwandans). When we denounce it, we are called xenophobes, extremists.”

The search for natural resources, notes Bishop Mulombe, creates strong instability in the country.

“These are resources coveted by neighboring countries as well as by multinationals, which have no interest in seeing these regions stabilized. There is also the specter of balkanization,” the Congolese Bishop says.

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He explains, “Some Western powers, as well as African powers, wish to use all these conflicts to foster chaos and divide the country, a bit like what happened at the time of independence with the secession of some provinces such as Katanga, Kasai, Kivu.”

According to the 62-year-old Bishop who has been at the helm of Uvira Diocese since December 2013, the widely condemned killing of the Italian diplomat “only confirms” the daily experiences of locals in the Central African nation.

“The assassination … only confirms what we have been saying for some time: total insecurity reigns here,” he says, and adds, “If it is possible to kill a diplomat of this rank in this manner, think about what can happen to ordinary villagers.”

Within the country’s Diocese of Butembo-Beni, the Prelate who previously served as Auxiliary Bishop of DRC’s Kinshasa says members of the Clergy and Religious have often been kidnapped while others have been killed.

“There are also attacks against churches and convents in order to steal vehicles, motorcycles, food, money,” Bishop Mulombe says, adding that the Church’s position in the ongoing suffering in DRC has been to call for reconciliation and peace.

He says that in South Kivu, the Catholic Church takes the opportunity of important occasions on the pastoral calendar to create awareness on the importance of peace in the country.

“Sometimes we meet with armed groups and we try to open a channel of dialogue. We often organize fundraising, clothes, medicines and livelihoods to help displaced populations, but the problem is also the poverty of our faithful. We do our best in the formation of consciences, in charity, in prayer,” Bishop Mulombe says.

Meanwhile, the Congolese Bishop has mourned the late Italian Ambassador, describing him as a friend he had met and remained close to.

“He loved the Congo and the Congolese very much. He was in North Kivu on a humanitarian mission. He was a man of peace and great friendship. May his soul rest in peace,” Bishop Mulombe says in his report to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Vatican's Propaganda Fide.