AFRICA/DR CONGO - President Kabila in an open dispute with the Catholic Church

Monday, 29 January 2018

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Nowhere in the Bible, has Jesus Christ ever presided over an electoral commission", said President Joseph Kabila in the press conference convened on January 26 to take stock of the political, economic and security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo 17 years after his rise to power.
Fr. Donatien Nshole, General Secretary and spokesperson of CENCO (National Episcopal Conference of the Congo) responded immediately: "Pope Benedict XVI said that the Church must be present where the population suffers. This is the case of the DRC. And it is the socio-political crisis that accentuates this suffering, so it is quite normal for the Bishops to work to consolidate democracy".
As is known, lay Catholics have taken the lead of the protests to demand the application of the New Year's Eve Agreements of 31 December 2016, signed thanks to the mediation of the Bishops, and to ask President Kabila the solemn commitment not to run as candidate for a third term .
The presidential elections which were to be held by the end of 2016, according to the Constitution, by the end of 2017 according to the New Year's Eve agreements, are now scheduled for December 23, 2018. But Kabila said that the organization of the elections is too complicated and expensive, and one day it will be necessary to choose between the development and the conduct of the elections. To a journalist who asked him if he would run as candidate, the President had no other reaction than tell his team to give him a copy of the Constitution. Joseph Kabila, whose second and last mandate expired on December 19, 2016, has never clarified whether he will respect the constitutional norm.
Speaking of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the Congolese head of State said that "after 20 years [of presence in the DRC], we have the impression that MONUSCO has the mission to remain". "MONUSCO - he underlined - has not eradicated any armed groups in the eastern part of the DRC (...). Only when terrorists beheaded UN experts they opened their eyes", said Kabila, referring to Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán, the two UN experts assassinated in March 2017 in Kasai province, in unclear circumstances. According to independent investigations, the involvement of certain DRC security officers is not excluded.
"Ultimately what remains of this press conference if not the image of a Kabila who ignores the opposition, takes up the war against the Catholic Church, does not hide his dislike towards MONUSCO and recognizes his arm wrestling with Belgium, which has taken a tough position with the power of Kinshasa?", says, one of the most read news sites in Kinshasa. His Eminence Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, qualified Kabila's speech as "long-winded and useless". (D.M.) (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 29/1/2018)