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Four Issues of Concern Catholic Bishops in DR Congo Want Addressed for National Cohesion

The Secretary-General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), Fr. Donatien Ntshole addressing journalists during a press conference in DRC's capital, Kinshasa on 21 June 2021. Credit: CENCO

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have, at the end of their plenary assembly, highlighted four challenges the people of God in the Central African nation are facing, which they want addressed for the achievement of national cohesion and development.

In their collective statement issued Monday, June 21, the members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) declare June 30 as the Day of Prayer for national cohesion and unity, saying the Congolese people are affected by political, economic, security and humanitarian challenges.

On the socio-economic status of the country, the Catholic Bishops are concerned about the fact that majority of the Congolese people are facing “extreme poverty.”

“There are a handful of compatriots who are getting rich in a scandalous way and without cause,” CENCO members say, and add, “We wonder whether this is not the result of corruption and misappropriation of public funds for personal gain.”

The way the “handful” Congolese are amassing wealth, the Bishops say, “also has a negative impact on national cohesion in so far as it further widens the gap between the rich and the poor.” 

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Amid these concerns, the Catholic Church leaders acknowledge some economic successes in the Central African nation, “in particular the increase in foreign exchange reserves at the Central Bank, and the initiatives taken in the various ministries.”

Regarding insecurity, CENCO members who have previously denounced the crises in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu welcome the state of siege declared in the Provinces on May 6.

“We welcome the military measures taken by the President of the Republic and the recently declared state of siege, the positive effects of which we hope to see,” the Bishops say in the statement signed by CENCO President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa.

The Bishops are concerned that “some of our compatriots are still conspiring with the aggressors for selfish ends, and others are exploiting it for political gains.”

The fact that justice in DRC “continues to be poorly rendered, influenced by corruption and manipulated by politicians” is another cause for concern for the Catholic Church leaders in the Central African nation.

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“For many of our compatriots, the judiciary is perceived as a place for tricks, settling scores and endorsing injustices,” CENCO members say in their June 21 collective statement, and add, “Corruption, unfortunately, seems to be the main way to win a case.”

They also concerned that “the law is giving way to clientelism, regionalism, tribalism and nepotism.”

“National cohesion is thus undermined, especially when the judiciary is exploited to remove political competitors,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say, adding, “The reality is that the national budget favours political institutions at the expense of the welfare of the population. This injustice only reinforces social inequalities.”

As a way forward, CENCO members recommend a raft of measures to address the challenges in the Central African nation.

They invite President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi to promote initiatives that “foster national unity (and) pursue the fight against corruption and impunity in earnest.”

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“The Head of State should ensure good geographical representation in institutions, including discouraging tribalism and put the Army in a better position to respond effectively to its mission of defending and safeguarding the unity and integrity of the national territory,” the Bishops say.

Addressing themselves to DRC’s members of Parliament (MPs), the Bishops pray that they do not initiate laws that foster tribalism in various institutions.

They also call on the Legislators “not to abuse parliamentary immunities to escape justice and to improve the electoral law so as to reassure the population of the credibility of the 2023 polls.”

CENCO members also call on government leaders to “promote societal projects that strengthen national integration, such as the construction of national roads.”

They add that government officials should also find “effective ways of stabilizing provincial institutions and putting them at the service of the population.”

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The Catholic Church leaders further call on the international community to help DRC “fight against all the fundamentalist movements that are spreading in the country.”

“Assess the role of DRC's neighbors in the persistence of violence and massacres,” they say, and invite the international community to support cohesion in the country.

The Bishops also advise the Congolese people “not to be drawn into separatist rhetoric and actions, for it is cohesion that holds the country together even in times of trial.”

“Support any good initiative of our government, regardless of our political leanings,” CENCO members tell Congolese citizens, adding that “they should also be united in the fight against COVID-19 by respecting the barrier measures and by getting vaccinated in order to protect ourselves and others.”

The Catholic Church leaders urge Congolese to accept what they are and to appreciate others “in order to put together what we have in common and what makes us different, for the greater good of all and the glory of God.”

“The diversity of tribes is part of the heritage that constitutes the Congo, this blessed gift that we have received from our forefathers. It should not lead us to the exclusion of others, but rather to an opportunity for the enrichment of each other, and a basis for the development of our Nation,” members of CENCO say.