, 28 November, 2019 / 2:32 AM
Following incidences of renewed violence in the Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that have resulted in the killing of civilians, Bishops in the central African nation have expressed concern that, if not addressed urgently, their country could plunge “into a cycle of violence” that risks worsening the already deplorable living conditions of the Congolese.
“The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) is very concerned about the socio-security situation in the east of our country, particularly in the provinces of North and South Kivu, due to the resurgence of violence and killings,” reads in part a statement by the umbrella body of Catholic Bishops in DRC, CENCO.
“Without an appropriate solution, the situation in Beni town and territory and the Minembwe Highlands in Fizi territory could lead the country into a cycle of violence that will prevent the improvement of living conditions for Congolese people and the stability of the country,” the Bishops have noted in their communique availed to ACI Africa, Tuesday, November 26.
While referring to an operation launched by DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) supported by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the country (MONUSCO) against the rebels, the Allied Democratic Forces – National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) in Beni town, the Prelates noted that the people in the area are suffering from retaliation attacks.
“Since 30 October 2019, the FARDC supported by MONUSCO has launched in-depth operations against these "alleged ADF-NALU", the Bishops recall in their collective statement and add, “the poor population suffers ‘reprisals’.”
“In November alone, there were nearly 80 deaths, not to mention the seriously injured and missing,” the Bishops have recalled in their communique signed by the President of CENCO, Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani.
The Bishops add, “It should be noted that these killings take place sometimes in places near FARDC camps and where the mixed patrol (Congolese National Police and FARDC) is in circulation.”
The Church leaders in DRC have also noted that in the South Kivu villages of Minembwe, “foreign troops are fueling these clashes and using community conflicts to fight on Congolese territory.”
Regarding the situation in Minembwe, the Bishops expressed “the need to listen to communities in conflict.”
“We are aware of the complexity of this situation, which cannot be resolved in a sustainable way without the involvement of local authorities under the leadership of the Congolese Government,” the Congolese Prelates have stated.
While commending the Government, FARDC and MONUSCO for their outstanding efforts to combat the enemies of peace, the Bishops have emphasized the need to develop “an emergency programme to create a climate of calm and put a definitive end to hostilities in this part of the country.”
They also voiced the need to “establish a national solidarity programme to provide humanitarian aid to the affected people: the displaced, but also the people who have remained in the conflict areas.”
In their statement, the Church leaders have also called for the restoration of “state authority through the services of the National Police, the Army, Migration, etc. in order to remove this part of the country from arbitrariness.”
While praying for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on DRC, the Bishops conclude their communique with an urgent call to create “a framework for dialogue to foster a climate of justice, peace and reconciliation between communities in conflict” at the national level.
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