Increased Firearms Circulation in Congolese Catholic Archdiocese Worries Local Ordinary

Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani Archdiocese and President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). Credit: Vatican Media

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has noted with concern the increased circulation of firearms in the headquarters of his jurisdiction, a situation that he says spells doom for the region he shepherds.

With a population of 539,158 people, Kisangani is one of the most populous cities in the Northern provinces of DRC and has been relatively calm according to a message that Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa shared.

In the Sunday, April 9 message, the Archbishop Utembi notes with concern what he describes as “strange” happenings in Kisangani, including the coming in of unknown people, increased attacks on Church facilities, assassinations, as well as increased circulation of firearms in the city.

“For some time now, we have been witnessing a resurgence of uncivil acts in the city of Kisangani and its surroundings. All these acts plunge the whole city into a climate of indescribable and unjustified insecurity. The entire population lives in a psychosis created from scratch by people who are not otherwise identified,” Archbishop Utembi says.

He adds, “It is with bitterness and amazement that we note the… intense circulation of firearms in the city, armed attacks on households, houses of ecclesiastical formation, and persons at night, even in broad daylight.”


The Archbishop of Kisangani further denounces the increased robberies of stores, offices, and dwellings, xenophobic or tribal hate speech, and assassinations with knives and firearms in the city.

Archbishop Utembi further notes with concern the intense circulation of masses of foreigners who he says know neither the native languages nor the geography of the Kisangani.

The Local Ordinary of Kisangani who doubles as the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) says that there is also a curiously significant increase in the number of motorcycle riders.

These people, he says in reference to the motorcycle riders, appear “strange in their dress and speech, driving in the void without knowledge of the city.”

The Archbishop of Kisangani further notes with concern the increased scenes of revenge, settling of scores, and mob justice in what he describes as a disturbing rise in unjustified claims to “ancestral lands”, and tax disputes, as well as prolonged lack of electricity or untimely power cuts in several neighborhoods in the city where he says uncontrolled groups of delinquents and criminals are now swarming.

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Most concerning however, he says, is the lethargy of the state, security, and other services, a situation he says has begun to raise the suspicion of complicity among the public.

The 64-year-old Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in January 2002 as Bishop of DRC’s Mahagi-Nioka Diocese has warned that if left unaddressed, the strange happenings in Kisangani are likely to plunge the city into a security crisis.

Already, the situation of the country is “alarming and dangerous”, he says, and adds, “If we do nothing, at all levels, the situation will deteriorate and become unmanageable. This is why, as a Church, in the middle of the village, we raise our voice to denounce these acts and their perpetrators whatever their status or origins.”

“We launch a cry of alarm to the provincial, urban, public, military, and police authorities, as well as to the men and women of goodwill and the entire population of the city of Kisangani, inviting them to denounce and fight, without complacency, these uncivil acts which disturb the legendary quietude of this city,” Archbishop Utembi says, warning the people of God in the country “not to dive into guilty complicity”.

Further, he appeals to residents of Kisangani to report any suspicious person responsible for the crimes in the city and to collaborate closely with the security services in addressing the matter.


The Catholic Archbishop who has been at the helm of Kisangani Archdiocese since January 2009 has recommended that all security personnel in the country re-establishes the authority of the State in the city and its surroundings, and controls migratory movements in the city.

He calls on security agencies in DRC to work towards combatting all xenophobic, tribalistic, and regionalist discourse and tendencies, especially in Kisangani.

The Catholic Archbishop recommends that efforts be put in place to promote dialogue with the different segments of the population, including community leaders, religious leaders, youth groups, and others, by insisting on the importance of living together in peace.

Payment of salaries to government officials, the military, and the police should also be timely to avoid harassment and acts of vandalism that the Catholic Church leader says are impoverishing Kisangani.

Other measures that the CENCO President recommends include securing people and their property, combating arbitrariness in the management of land and tax affairs, as well as creating jobs to curb banditry.

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“With the implication of everyone, we will save our city from this threat and we will preserve the reputation of Kisangani as a hospitable city, a peaceful city,” the Catholic Archbishop says, and adds, “Together let us say ‘no’ to violence, to killing, to xenophobia, to insecurity in all its forms and wherever it comes from.”

“Together let us say ‘yes’ to peace, to peaceful cohabitation, to development, and the indivisible unity of our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he says.

Archbishop Utembi goes ahead to wish the people of God in his Metropolitan joyful Easter celebrations, saying, “I pray that the Risen Christ, who conquered death, will bring us Peace, Justice, Reconciliation and a total victory over all the forces of evil and help us to cultivate the spirit of patriotism. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, pray for us!”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.