Catholic Priest in DR Congo Laments Months of Killings over Community Land

Members of St. Francis of Paola Parish of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo hold prayers at the parish premises. Credit: Fr. Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu

St. Francis of Paola Parish of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is losing its members to a group of individuals claiming to prevent the sale of community land.

When Fr. Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu, the Assistant Parish Priest of St. Francis of Paola Parish spoke to ACI Africa, he said that the Parish was preparing for the burial of a young man who had been killed by the infamous “Mobondo”, a group that has been on a killing spree in Plateau de Bateke where the Parish is located in the Eastern part of Kinshasa.

“The past few months have been extremely difficult for us. We keep losing our people to this group (Mobondo). Our young people, especially innocent motorbike riders are the most targeted. Last week, we lost a young person to the killers,” Fr. Bolengu said in the Monday, May 8 interview.

The member of the Mill Hill Missionaries (MHM) explained that Mobondo has come up strongly against the “Mfumu”, the elderly people who are selling community land at “throw-away” prices to city-based billionaires.

He said that although the Mobondo has good intentions, they have gone rogue and are now completely out of control.


“The Mfumu are selling community land without any consultations. They give away large tracts of land for something as trivial as a car. Rich people come from Kinshasa and get huge tracts of land at throw-away prices,” the Catholic Priest said.

The Church in Plateau de Bateke has not been spared in the rampant selling of land, Fr. Bolengu said, adding that today, the future of St. Francis of Paola Parish, which sat on a sprawling piece of land, is at stake after the Church found out that 12 acres of the Parish land had been sold in secret.

“Our Parish sits on community land. Recently when we wanted to use part of it for our development projects, we were surprised to learn through the courts that 12 acres of the land had been sold already. And now, we can't use it,” Fr. Bolengu said.

Sometimes, the Mfumu sell land to different parties, a situation that leads to bloody conflicts, the Catholic priest says.

Plateau de Bateke is inhabited by the Bateke and Bayaka tribes. The elderly members of the Bateke tribe, also referred to as the “Mfumu”, are responsible for selling land, claiming that it is their ancestral property.

More in Africa

In retaliation, the Bayaka have formed the Mobondo group that seeks the intervention of witches and traditional healers “to deal with the Mfumu”.

“The Mobondo believe that with the traditional medicine, they are made bullet-proof and can attack those selling land. But it isn't just the Mfumu that are dying. Innocent civilians are being killed as well,” Fr. Bolengu says, adding, “They kill people in very crude ways. They meet people on the roads and set them on fire, burning them alive.”

He says that many residents have sold their properties and fled to the city, fearing for their lives. Those who relied on farming can no longer go to their farms for fear of being ambushed by the Mobondo who live in the forest.

School-going children also prefer to stay at home for fear of being waylaid by the ruthless killers, the founder of Bakanja-Anuarite Formation Centre said.

Plateau de Bateke is richly endowed with manganese mineral deposits yet it remains one of the poorest parts of DRC. The place has ironically been described as “a place where many people would not love to live.”


People here live in extreme poverty, Fr. Bolengu said in a past interview with ACI Africa, adding that prostitution is very high in villages, where children and young people are living with HIV and have had other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

And with the reckless sale of land, Fr. Bolengu fears the widening of the gap between the poor and the rich in Plateau de Bateke.

Started by Fr. Bolengu, Bakanja-Anuarite Formation Centre has opened doors to dozens of young mothers who dropped out of school owing to poverty.

Fr. Bolengo told ACI Africa that St. Francis of Paola Parish has also opened its doors to victims of land-related killings through psychosocial support and food donations.

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.