Catholic Priests in DR Congo Question Government’s Plan to Resettle Ex-Rebels

M23 rebels in DR Congo. Credit: Agenzia Fides

Catholic Priests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have poked holes in the government’s plan to resettle ex-rebels belonging to the March 23 Movement (M23) who reportedly surrendered some of their strongholds in the Central African country.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa following their meeting, the members of the Clergy of Kindu Catholic Diocese in DRc express their dismay at the government’s decision to resettle the ex-rebels in the province of Maniema, which is served by the Congolese Diocese, noting that the move posed security threats to inhabitants of Maniema.

They describe the government’s decision as abrupt and vague and call on authorities in DRC to handle what has been described as “project cantonment of the ex-rebels of the M23” with utmost care.

“We learned of the plan to canton the ex-rebels of the M23 in certain sites in the province of Maniema, only a few kilometers from the city of Kindu, the capital of the province of Maniema. Such an abrupt, vague, and improvised program has been criticized by some Members of Parliament, Notables, Customary Chiefs, and Civil Society Organizations the day after this news,” the Catholic Priests say in the statement shared with ACI Africa on Wednesday, April 26 following their April 15-20 meeting.

The members of the Clergy of Kindu Diocese express the fear of seeing the execution of what they describe as “a project hiding an obscure reality.”


They could not help but wonder what might have justified the choice of the city of Kindu for the cantonment of the ex-rebels in a province that borders areas that are still under the threat of M23.

Expressing some of their fears, the Catholic Priests posed, “What is the national government aiming at by stationing these ex-rebels in Kindu?”

“In view of the terror sown and the insecurity often created by the M23 rebels in the East of the country for years, what guarantee does the National Government give to the population of Maniema with regard to its security and its future?” they further pose, and continue, “Such a decision/project, in the face of the generalized insecurity that currently exists in Maniema and that has not yet been brought under control, presages the worst.”

The Catholic Priests of Kindu Diocese say that they had learned from the war in North Kivu, which they say had left them traumatized, with the ability “to see the evil from afar and to push it away, should blood still be flowing in Maniema!” 

In their April 15-20 meeting, the Catholic Priests also deliberated on the situation of Maniema province, which is under their pastoral care, and expressed their “deep” concern about the province’s deteriorating humanitarian, economic, and security situation.

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“We have considered the current living conditions of the Maniemian population, for which we have pastoral responsibility. We are deeply worried and concerned by the deterioration of the economic, security, and humanitarian situation,” they say in their statement.

They express regret that a lot had changed for the worst for a province that they say used to be the “real granary” for her neighbors, enjoying relative economic stability.

It was Maniema, the Catholic Priests recall, that used to supply the neighboring provinces of Katanga, Oriental Province, and the two Kasai, with palm oil, rice, and groundnuts.

“Today, the economic health of our Province is critical,” the Priests say, and add, “It is getting worse day by day and is characterized by the decline in agricultural production, the soaring prices of foodstuffs, and basic necessities.”

The Clergy of Kindu Diocese have presented a set of proposals to the Congolese government, local authorities, as well as the leadership of the Catholic Church in DRC in taming insecurity in the country, and in helping Maniema province back to its feet. 


“We urge the national authorities to take the necessary time before implementing this project of cantonment of the ex-rebels of the M23. And this is by taking into account the reactions-proposals of the population in its representation. This would avoid conflicts and more disastrous consequences tomorrow,” the Catholic Priests say.

They urge the government of Maniema, in particular, to provide security for people and their property. 

To the population of Maniema, the Clergy’s message is simple. They say, “The Province is going very badly.”

“It is imperative that we all get involved, each at his or her own level. Faced with the dark picture that our Province presents today, the worst thing is discouragement, guilty silence, and disinterest in these situations,” the Catholic Priests say.

“We must take our common destiny in hand.,” they further say, and add, “Let's stand up, let's raise our still-bent foreheads, and let's take the most beautiful momentum.”

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“For the cause of Maniema, let us not be silent. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of the Risen One, obtain for us peace from her Son, Jesus the Risen Christ,” the Clergy of Kindu Diocese say in their statement shared with ACI Africa.

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.