Kinshasa (Fides Service) - “The Bishops’ Conference of Congo speaks on behalf of millions of Congolese people who have benefited from the assistance offered by the United Nations’ system of specialised agencies and continue to do so”. This statement was addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation by the Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a letter dated 14 February 2004. In the letter, while voicing gratitude for what the UN is doing in Congo, the Bishops ask the Organisation to make even more effort to help the country find a solution to the tragic conflict which started in 1998. “As you know this war is the most bloodiest the African continent has ever known: 3 million dead and 1.5 million displaced persons” the Bishops write. “Some refer to and rightly so as the first African world war because it involves not only nine different African countries and their Western supporters, but because the war affects the vital interests of the entire continent. In fact the riches over which men are fighting in Congo, are part of the patrimony of all Africa. National exploitation of these riches would help without a doubt to solve many of the continent’s problems. The damage inflicted on Congo strikes the other peoples of Africa and so the whole of humanity”.
The Bishops denounce “the horrifying amount of arms which feed conflicts in the Great Lakes region” arms trafficking connected with “ fraudulent exploitation of timber, coffee, diamonds, gold and coltan”.
Referring to recent peace agreements which led to the installation of an interim government of national unity with the participation of most rebel groups, the bishops say that it is now “indispensable for all parties to sign an official declaration stopping all hostilities”. “The declaration must foresee sanctions for anyone who resumes fighting. Apart from the regular army, no other armed groups must be granted legitimacy”.
“Since the country is now on the road to solve this domestic crisis, albeit only in part, the Bishops’ Conference is of the opinion that the time has come to hold an international conference on the Great Lakes region under the aegis of the United Nations”. The Bishops also propose a “conference to stop criminalisation of Congo’s economy. The Bishops insist on the need to protect Congo’s fauna and flora and to save financial resources produced by exploiting minerals for future generations ”.
The Bishops’ Conference calls for the constitution of an International Solidarity Fund for Democratic Congo to “compensate for damages suffered since 1994. The Fund would not eliminate obligations of justice and reparation which must be imposed on aggressor countries for damage inflicted on the people of Congo”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 24/2/2004, righe 41 parole 473)