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Catholic Bishop in DR Congo Says Mining “predators” Behind Country’s Poor Masses

Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni Diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Bishop of Butembo-Beni Diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has decried high levels of poverty in the Central African nation and blamed the people’s woes on individuals enriching themselves on the country’s vast natural resources.

In his address on the 61st anniversary of the independence of DRC that was celebrated Wednesday, June 30, Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku said that performance of most sectors in the country has been on the downward trajectory, adding that it is a shame that most people are poor in a country that is endowed with immense wealth.

“All sectors of national life are in trouble. From the economy to politics, security, development and social issues. Everything leads us to believe that instead of moving forward, we are going backwards,” Bishop Paluku said in his homily at Mother of the Church Cathedral of Butembo-Beni Diocese.

The Congolese Bishop observed with regret that a few members of DRC’s political class were perpetrating corruption in the country, thereby betraying those who fought for the independence of the nation.

“Our economy is extroverted, dependent on the whims of mining predators acting in complicity with a minority of politicians looking for a quick buck,” the Bishop said, and added, “The corrupt cooperation instituted in 1960 in order to buy the consciences of those who were to betray Lumumba (DRC’s independence leader), will continue for 60 years in the same philosophy.”

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“After six decades of independence, the balance sheet is mixed. It is positive on the cultural level. Education is fairly well developed,” he said, and explained that from the 10 people who graduated from university in the country in 1960, the number had risen to the current hundreds of thousands.

Only few graduates, however, are professionals in the country that the Catholic Bishop said is marred with corruption.

He noted that DRC’s lack of development after more than six decades of independence was especially evident in the country’s rural areas.

“Many illiterates are in rural areas. Congolese culture has developed and diversified considerably. But the challenges are enormous on the socio-economic level,” Bishop Paluku said.

The Local Ordinary of Butembo-Beni Diocese lamented that not a single economic development plan has been implemented in the Central African country in 60 years.

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He said that the Central African nation is lying under “a debt burden hidden from the people”, due not to what he referred to as new capital inflows but to the rescheduling of unpaid arrears.

“The social welfare of the people is the least of the leaders' concerns,” the 69-year-old Bishop lamented, and added, “For sixty years, the country's economic and monetary leaders have been content to satisfy the IMF (International Monetary Fund) by imposing draconian policies of economic stabilization, without ever seeking the path of economic expansion which alone has enabled the 41 countries that have made their economies take off to do so.”

The Bishop who has been at the helm of DRC’s Diocese of Butembo-Beni since August 1998 says that the independent DRC can lead by example in Africa’s economic liberation.

“The Congo has much more to offer Africa and the world,” he says, and explains, “Beyond its abundant and diversified natural resources, the DR Congo has the responsibility to show the way to true economic and social development to African nations. This is the greatest gift it can offer to the continent, which has been asking for it since the speech of a high African head of state in 1958 at the Pan-African Conference in Accra.”

The Bishop of Butembo-Beni says that DRC “must wake up and awaken the nations to resist, and above all to impose the construction of a world of true justice, true shared happiness, true peace and true democracy.”

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“Humanity, now threatened with extinction, looks to the DRC and awaits its response,” the Congolese Bishop says, and poses, “Are its leaders and its people aware of this? Have they already understood why their country is the only one to be subjected to the status of an international colony, the common property of world capitalists?”

“The awakening of the Congo will be the awakening of the nations of the world today, terrified and under a bell. The future will tell,” Bishop Paluku posits.