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People in Eastern DRC “crying out for help to those who can hear”: Cardinal after Visit

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo (center) addressing journalists in DRC's capital, Kinshasa, Friday, 3 January 2020.

After his pastoral visit to the Diocese of Butembo-Beni in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the country’s military has been fighting against dozens of local and foreign armed groups, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Besungu has expressed concerns about the desperate situation of the people there “crying out for help” and called on the government to take up its responsibility of protecting citizens.

“The context of our pastoral visit is the suffering, the atrocity, the anguish experienced by the people of eastern DR Congo who are crying out for help to all those who can hear them to come to their aid,” Cardinal Ambongo told journalists at a press conference in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa Friday, January 3.

“The Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) has several times raised its voice to draw the attention of the authorities on the crisis in the East of our country,” the Cardinal recalled and explained, “The general climate is characterized by the misery and suffering of a traumatized people. There are massacres almost daily with human beings coldly slaughtered at night.”

“The result is: Displacement of families for fear of attacks, abandoned villages, a population terrorized and traumatized, and morally weakened; acts of sabotage: houses burned down, plantations looted, and frequent kidnappings (5 priests are missing to date),” the Congolese Cardinal lamented.

DRC has faced a number of crises in recent times including an Ebola outbreak in the east and violence in various parts of the vast Central African country, particularly in the Ituri, Kasai, and Kivu regions, Global Conflict Tracker has reported.

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More than one hundred armed groups, such as the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces, are believed to operate in the Eastern region of DRC despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers.

In his address to journalists at the press conference, Cardinal Ambongo revealed, “There is a balkanization plan that is already underway.”

According to the Congolese Church leader, the balkanization plan “concerns the eastern part of the country. There is even a mode of operation in Ituri-Bunia, Butembo-Beni and Rutshuru-Minembwe."

As a way forward, the Archbishop of Kinshasa appealed to the Government to assume its constitutional mandate of protecting citizens saying, “It is up to the government to assume its responsibilities to convince “through diplomatic means” neighboring countries, particularly Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, to stop dumping (their) populations in Congo.”

“There must be a national awareness that our country is at war, that the country is in danger,” the Congolese Prelate who will turn 60 on January 24 reiterated.

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He also called on his compatriots to support the Congolese military who are fighting against dozens of local and foreign armed groups.

“The part of the Army that is at the war front must be supported in terms of manpower, material and logistical means. The military should be motivated,” he said.

“While exhorting the victims of this crisis to be courageous and not to lose hope, I entrust you all to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Cardinal Ambongo concluded.