Goma (Agenzia Fides) - "When we speak of the violence of insecurity in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Rwanda and Burundi, we speak of 5 to 12 million victims," said the Bishop of Idiofa, President of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC), which brings together the bishops' conferences of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), José Moko, during a press conference in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The press conference was convened on January 27th on the occasion of the meeting of ACEAC bishops in the capital of North Kivu and ended on Sunday, January 28th with a Mass for Peace. Bishop Moko recalled the commitment to peace of the ACEAC bishops, who have met on several occasions with representatives of the authorities in the region and even with the rebels of the M23 movement, who are again clashing these days with the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). Clashes in Mweso on January 25 left at least 20 people dead. According to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), around 1,000 people have left the city, adding to the tens of thousands who had previously fled the region. In this context, the ACEAC bishops visited the Lushagala refugee camp, where 90,000 displaced people live. The crisis in the region has been going on for 30 years and intensified at the end of 2021 when two areas in North Kivu, Rutshuru and Masisi, are in the grip of a conflict involving the rebellion of the M23 movement, which was led by units of the Rwandan army, against FARDC, working with armed groups, Burundian auxiliaries and foreign mercenaries. Responding to journalists who accused Rwanda of fomenting war in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bishop Moko said that "the Rwandan bishops are very sensitive to the situation in the east of our country (...) and they will certainly leave Congo with tears in their eyes, with hearts touched and they will not fail to do their part as pastors of the Church in Rwanda". "I believe that we all long for peace and that there is not a single Catholic bishop in Rwanda, Burundi or the Democratic Republic Republic of the Congo who could be happy about what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," he affirmed. Several thousand believers took part in the mass on Sunday, January 28. In his homily, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, criticized the Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian leaders, accusing them of inciting the population "to division and conflict" because some of them "have an interest in this continuing" to "pursue their own selfish interests." (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 29/1/2024)