Category Archives: Africa

Congo bishops fault politicians for failed mediation

NCR by Jonathan Luxmoore  |  Apr. 22, 2017

Three weeks after the Catholic Church gave up mediating in the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s bishops are defending their record and blaming the impasse on politicians. However, attacks on clergy and parish buildings have also raised questions as to whether the church has come too close to politics in what’s widely considered Africa’s most Catholic country.

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Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa arrives with other bishops Dec. 21, 2016, to mediate talks between the opposition and the government of of President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (CNS/Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

“The bishops’ conference mission has been interpreted by some as an attempt to distract attention from issues of the hour,” said Msgr. Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the church’s Social Communications Commission.” But one shouldn’t miss the target when analyzing events here. The failure of negotiations should be blamed on the political and social actors who didn’t show a spirit of compromise. It’s to them that demands for an explanation should be addressed, and on whom pressure should now be exerted.”

Catholics in six archdioceses and 41 dioceses make up around two-thirds of the 67.5 million inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of Congo — according to the Vatican’s Annuario Pontificio yearbook, published this month — and runs an extensive network of hospitals, clinics and farms, as well as around half of all schools.

The country, formerly known as Zaire, has known little stability since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, and up to 6 million people died in a series of 1995-2003 wars, fought mainly over Congo’s rich natural resources.

Last summer, the bishops’ conference launched a mediation bid after opposition leaders accused President Joseph Kabila of seeking to cling to power by delaying autumn elections.

An initial settlement in October wasn’t accepted by some opposition groups. So the talks resumed before the Dec. 20 expiry of Kabila’s second and final term, and the outcome, in the final hours of 2016, was an accord witnessed by foreign diplomats.

This allowed the 45-year-old president to stay in power until elections in late 2017 alongside a government headed by an opposition-nominated prime minister, with a National Transition Council monitoring the electoral process under veteran opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi.

In a pastoral letter, the bishops said the accord reflected a “consensual and inclusive political compromise that sets out a realistic route,” and they warned that the whole Democratic Republic of Congo risked “plunging into uncontrollable disorder” if the accord failed.

However, negotiations to implement it have run into trouble.

Continue reading Congo bishops fault politicians for failed mediation

DRC tense as police clash with anti-Kabila protesters

Police and demonstrators battle in Kinshasa as talks between President Kabila’s government and opposition fall apart

Kabila’s mandate ran out in December, sparking violent protests at the end of last year [Reuters]

Congolese police fired rounds into the air and launched tear gas canisters to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters in Kinshasa on Tuesday after talks between the opposition and President Joseph Kabila‘s government fizzled out.

Unrest broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s capital after Catholic bishops withdrew from their role as mediators between the government and opposition in talks aimed at paving the way for delayed elections later this year.

Demonstrators, some burning tyres at city crossroads, took to the streets in several areas in Kinshasa.

A Reuters news agency witness saw opposition members gathering at the home of the late Etienne Tshisekedi, the main opposition party’s former leader, during a news conference with his son, the new Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) party leader, Felix Tshisekedi.

Many shops remained closed and some schools called parents to collect their children

Kabila’s mandate ran out in December but polls were not held because of what the government said were budgetary constraints, sparking violent protests at the end of last year in which security forces killed at least 40 people.

DRC’s conference of Catholic bishops (CENCO) helped negotiate a December 31 deal aimed at avoiding a political crisis by ensuring an election this year to elect Kabila’s successor.

In January, the bishops warned the deal was at risk of unravelling if politicians did not act quickly to reach compromises and implement it.

The bishops stepped aside on Tuesday after progress on the deal stalled, raising the prospect of renewed violence in a country that has suffered a succession of wars and rebellions.

“We think that there’s no longer anything to do,” Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of CENCO, told Reuters. “We have given all our time and all our energy, and in the meantime, pastoral work suffers.”

Kabila has ruled the mineral-rich central African nation since his father’s assassination in 2001. His critics accuse him of deliberately delaying elections in order to remain in power.

Catholic priests, religious face wave of violence in DR Congo

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The Congolese Bishop’s Conference has helped to broker a peace deal that could arrange for the peaceful transition to power

Nearly half of the Congo’s 67.5 million people are Catholic. Previously, nearly 6 million people died in the 1996-2003 conflict over the nation’s transfer of power.Following recent attempts at brokering peace between the government and political opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Catholic priests and religious are facing violent backlash around the country.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic aid society that works in the country, Catholics have experienced a slew attacks on churches and convents. In particular, a Carmelite Convent and a Dominican Church were both ransacked in late February.

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, told the organization that the incidents “lead one to believe that the Catholic Church is being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”

 “Along with all bishops, we denounce these acts of violence, which are likely to plunge our country further into unspeakable chaos,” he said.
The attacks follow recent attempts by the Catholic Church in the DRC to mediate between talks between the government of  President Joseph Kabila and the opposition. The opposition to President Kabila and claims of a constitutional crisis follow after his refusal to step down from office at the end of 2016.

However, after delays for the funeral of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and other conflicts, the peace agreement has all but dissolved, according to some reports. Presidential elections are now expected to take place at the end of 2017.

“Politicians ought to acknowledge with humility, before their nation and the international community, their political tendencies and the immorality of their self-serving decisions,” Cardinal Monswengwo said in a statement about the elections.

The attacks have continued into March. According to Crux, 25 Catholic Seminarians in Malole in the south of the country had to be evacuated by UN peace-keeping forces by helicopter after armed troops attacked the seminary. The attackers were part of a militia loyal to former tribal leader Kamwina Nsapu, who died in August 2016.

 For the Catholics, the violence has been terrifying.

“They systematically broke down the doors to different rooms and destroyed everything inside. They entered the teachers’ rooms and burned their belongings,” Father Richard Kitenge, rector of the seminary, told Agence France-Presse.

Recently, the Church has also lead anti-corruption initiatives in the province and local area. The animosity towards the Church also extends outside of the church or convent walls.

“In the street, it’s not unusual to hear threats against the Church,” Father Julien Wato, the Dominican priest of Saint Dominic’s Church, the Kinshasa church vandalized in February said in a statement after the event.

Nearly half of the Congo’s 67.5 million people are Catholic. Previously, nearly 6 million people died in the 1996-2003 conflict over the nation’s transfer of power.

Continue reading Catholic priests, religious face wave of violence in DR Congo

A dream coming true: Mobilizing African sisters for systemic change

Global Sisters Report
by Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN

eucharia-m-2015I was received into the novitiate on April 1, “April Fools’ Day,” despite my disapproval of the date. In her effort to ease my discontent, my postulate director told us of a saint she considers a fool for Christ, Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan who became a martyr of charity for volunteering to die in place of a stranger in Auschwitz, a World War II Nazi concentration and death camp. Although this story did not assuage the poor choice of a date for the novitiate reception, it left a lasting impression on me. The story enlarged my mind about other ways of serving humanity. Kolbe’s love of God in the other, his recognition of the dignity and worth of the person, and his giving up his life choices and opportunities for the other were indeed inspiring.

Everyone is born with worth and dignity, choices and opportunities. Unfortunately, some individuals enlarge their own choices and opportunities at the expense of others by creating unjust systems and structures. This deprivation of the humanity of others became clearer to me as a provincial of my religious community some years ago. Part of my job was to listen to sisters’ stories, conduct intake interviews for young women wishing to enter a religious community, seek employment for sisters after qualification, and set up new ministries and projects. In the process of doing these tasks, I came face to face with the reality of life for ordinary Nigerians. I witnessed the threats to the dignity of the human person and the pervasiveness of structural injustice that has eroded the peoples’ choices and opportunities.

I had no solution to propose during my term as provincial, as neither my social nor my religious formation had prepared me to handle structural and systemic issues. Nevertheless, I was convinced that systemic injustice stands in the way of sustained progress of the people; progress that could come about through the sisters’ services.

In my desire for sustainable change and being conscious that my social and religious formation had not adequately prepared me to tackle structural injustice beyond prayer and service, I started thinking of building my capacity in this area so I could pass this on to other sisters. After my leadership ministry, I enrolled in a social work program, concentrating on social justice and social change. Concentrating on how I myself could engage as well as mobilize other sisters for systemic change, I also studied development and public policy in relation to Africa.

One of the greatest gifts I received was having the privilege of being employed at NETWORK where I studied the intersection of faith and politics as well as practical ways of working toward structural change from the standpoint of Catholic social tradition. Witnessing NETWORK’s influence on shaping public policies and its effort to ensure that U.S. policies have a human face, I came to the conclusion that sisters acting on behalf of justice by exerting political influence must complement their provision of services for people in need. As a result, I became more convinced that African sisters, like their counterparts in the U.S., could become a formidable force for change if they are mobilized for collective action on behalf of justice on the African continent. This idea took form for me thorough my year at NETWORK.

It was like a dream come true when, at the end of my time in NETWORK, AFJN invited me to coordinate its women empowerment project, designed to empower African sisters for collective action on behalf of justice so that they in turn will mobilize other women. Working with AFJN interests me because we hold a common belief that African sisters could be a formidable force for change by giving their leadership in providing critical and essential services– education, healthcare, pastoral and social services– to families, mostly women and children. As individuals and groups, sisters represent a unique social diversity that is essential for ending poverty, protecting human rights and building a fair society. In fact, most Africans, especially women, can attribute their education and standing in society to the sisters’ educational ministries.

To harness African sisters’ enormous potential to work for a more just society and to engage in action for justice requires rallying their political will in this direction. So from April through the month of June this year, while I was visiting Nigeria, AFJN sponsored my travelling around the country to speak with some leaders of women’s religious communities, both individually and in groups, to ascertain their willingness to address systemic injustice. AFJN also sponsored a one-day sisters’ forum on “Just Governance and the Common Good: Religious Vocation and Faithful Citizenship.” More than 50 sisters from over 23 congregations gathered to discuss Nigeria’s socio-political reality, the intersection of faith and politics, and the possibility of expanding the sisters’ mission of service to include working for systemic change.

At the end of these meetings with the sisters, most especially the one-day sisters’ forum, I was pleasantly surprised at the sisters’ level of awareness of systemic injustice and its negative impact on the people, as well as their recognition of the need for something more than providing service to the victims. I was also astonished at the excitement with which the sisters kept referencing Pope Francis’s challenge to religious during the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015 to “wake up the world.” It was very revealing.

The sisters affirmed their having been brought together, not as a congregation, but as Nigerian Catholic sisters to discuss this issue of great concern. Their vibrancy and eagerness to work together for change showed their understanding of the power of associational relationships and networking. Despite fear of being misunderstood by church leaders and ordinary Nigerians, the sisters showed an enthusiastic desire to raise their voices and hands against the sorry situation of Nigerian women and children. They demonstrated readiness and determination to engage the endemic systemic structures in the nation.

Catholic Sisters in Nigeria and in Africa have always been an integral part of the social fabric in their various societies. They have shown their leadership potential and proven that they can become formidable agents of change through their efficiency in providing services. Enabling them to expand their leadership in society into the socio-political arena in their various communities will go a long way toward dismantling structures that hurt the people the sisters serve. The sisters’ engagement with the structures of injustice, as well as their service provision, is indeed their mission of “bringing life in full” that is at the heart of religious life. It also restores their right to participate in shaping the affairs of their society.

[Eucharia Madueke is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in the Nigerian Province with expertise in social analysis, grassroots mobilization and organization. She coordinates women project of the African Faith and Justice Network.]

The DRC Elections: the Electoral Commission’s Chairman Explains

AFJN

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The DRC Elections: the Electoral Commission’s Chairman Explains

In March the President of the electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mr. Cornielle Nangaa, was in Washington, D.C. to meet with partners and share with them the status of the electoral process in his country. The presidential election, one of the eleven elections required by law in the DRC, is currently the main concern of the opposition, pressure groups, religious institutions and the international community. During Mr. Nangaa’s address to civil society and pressure groups at the DRC Embassy in Washington he explained some key facts and answered a number of questions which are summarized below. Continue reading The DRC Elections: the Electoral Commission’s Chairman Explains

Malema and other political parties must stop ‘the war talk’

Southern Africa Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has called on all political parties to avoid making statements that could incite election violence and civil war.Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ the chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission‚ issued the call on Monday in response to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema‚ who said during a televised interview that if the ANC continues to respond violently to peaceful protests‚ “We will run out of patience very soon and we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun” Continue reading Malema and other political parties must stop ‘the war talk’

Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram seen in video

Al Jazeera

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Nigeria girls worry about abducted classmates

About 15 girls seen in video obtained by government two years after almost 300 of them were kidnapped by Boko Haram.

A new video has emerged showing some of the missing schoolgirls kidnapped by the armed group Boko Haram in Nigeria two years ago, providing hope to parents that their daughters are still alive.

About 15 girls featured in the video obtained by the Nigerian government, saying they were from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok and pleading with the government to cooperate with Boko Haram on their release.

Boko Haram fighters abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014, with 57 pupils managing to escape but 219 still missing. Continue reading Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram seen in video