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
An Assumption priest, Fr Vincent Machozi, who for several years documented human rights abuses in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was murdered on Sunday night by armed gunmen, shortly after he posted an online article denouncing the involvement of the Congolese and Rwandan presidents in the massacres of innocent civilians.
A native of eastern Congo and a School of Theology student from 2006 to 2012, Fr Machozi worked closely with the Boston University (BU) Pardee School of Global Studies African Studies Center on outreach efforts in the war-torn country. Continue reading DR Congo: Gunmen kill priest who denounced corruption
23 March 2016 – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is at a ritical juncture, with rising political tensions ahead of elections which could lead to violence if left unaddressed, the top United Nations official in the country warned the Security Council today, while highlighting key issues for consideration as it renews the UN’s mandate there.
‘Credible and meaningful political dialogue’
“First, credible and meaningful political dialogue is needed to overcome the impasse in the electoral process,” said Maman Sidikou, the Head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), referring to presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November of this year. Continue reading DR Congo at ‘critical juncture,’ amid rising political tensions – UN envoy tells Security Council
By John L. Allen Jr.
ROME — Around midnight on Sunday, a dozen armed men wearing uniforms of the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo burst into a social center called “My Beautiful Village,” located in the North Kivu region of the country bordering Rwanda and Uganda, where a meeting for peace involving traditional tribal chiefs was underway.
Their target was a Catholic priest named the Rev. Vincent Machozi, a member of a religious order known as the Augustinians of the Assumption, who operated an influential website documenting atrocities committed against his Nande people, also known as the Yira after the language they speak.
Machozi used the site to denounce what he saw as collusion among political elites, armed factions, and commercial interests in what he termed the “Balkanization” of the region in order to exploit its natural resources, especially its rich coltan deposits. Since 2010, so much violence has been unleashed on the Yira — often in grotesque fashion, including beheading by machetes — that activists such as Machozi have referred to it as a “genocide.” Continue reading Priest’s murder in Congo shows the need for a new concept of martyrdom
Human rights organization Amnesty has accused Apple, Samsung and Sony, among others, of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children.
In a report into cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it found children as young as seven working in dangerous conditions.
Cobalt is a a vital component of lithium-ion batteries.
The firms said that they had a zero tolerance policy towards child labor.
The DRC produces at least 50% of the world’s cobalt. Miners working in the area face long-term health problems and the risk of fatal accidents, according to Amnesty.
It claimed that at least 80 miners had died underground in southern DRC between September 2014 and December 2015. Continue reading Apple, Samsung and Sony face child labor claims
A new system for paying civil servants puts banks through their paces
IMAGINE if, to collect your salary each month, you had to walk to the nearest town—perhaps tens of miles away—to congregate in a school or a football pitch or a church. There, you and your colleagues wait for a man to arrive from the capital—perhaps a thousand miles away—with a suitcase of cash. Most of the time, you do not receive as much money as you should. Sometimes the man does not arrive at all.
Until recently, that is how most government employees in the Democratic Republic of Congo were paid. But over the past three years the government has been trying to get civil servants to open bank accounts, to which their pay can be transferred directly. In the process, it is accelerating the spread of banking in an economy that, according to Michel Losembe, the bow-tied president of the Congolese Banking Association, is “not very far off barter”. Continue reading How cash is carried across Congo
KINSHASA – Police in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo fired teargas on Wednesday to disperse stone-throwing students whose protest against a feared increase in school fees is the latest sign of unrest ahead of a tense election season.
Witnesses said the protest outside the Superior Institute for Architecture and Urbanism was the second by students in Kinshasa this week. It comes ahead of an election set for November 2016, when President Joseph Kabila is due to step down. Continue reading DRC police fire teargas at protesting students
Press Release Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) Secretariat
The youth in Africa have been called upon to combat the new forms of slavery and colonization on the continent. This appeal was made by the President of the Episcopal Conference of the the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bishop Nicola Djomo, at the opening ceremony of a meeting of Pan-African Catholic Youth and Children that is being held in Kinshasa, DRC from August 21-25, 2 015. Continue reading African Youth to Combat New Forms of Slavery and Colonization
By John L. Allen Jr.
ROME – It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a pivotal and war-torn nation of 67 million people located in Central Africa where roughly half the population is Catholic.
To begin with, the country’s bishops recently asked President Joseph Kabila to open a national dialogue “in accordance with the constitution” with regard to elections set for 2016. Kabila took office in 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and has since between elected to the presidency twice, in 2006 and 2011.
At present, there are rumors that Kabila is laying the groundwork to amend Congo’s constitution to allow him to seek a third term, sparking protests from the country’s political opposition as well as pro-democracy activists.
In that context, the “invitation” from the bishops has struck many Congolese as akin to a shot across the bow, meaning a warning that the Church will push back if Kabila does indeed try to set aside constitutional term limits to extend his grip on power.
Second, Church officials in early July found themselves defending the role of the Catholic charitable group Caritas in distributing salaries for public school teachers in remote areas of the country where there are no banks.
Teachers in those regions recently have complained that they haven’t been paid for months. Officials of the charity, however, say the delays are because vehicles carrying cash for the salaries have been hijacked by bandits, insisting that if the government really wants teachers paid, then it could provide better security on the roads.
In any event, a spokesman for the main teachers’ union in eastern Congo, Jean-Luc Ndailitse, said his organization still prefers having Caritas handle the payments.
When government officials were in charge, he said, at least 30 percent of the funds disappeared, presumably lining those officials’ pockets; now, at least, when Caritas can get the cash where it’s supposed to go, all of it goes to the teachers.
On yet another front, bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo also recently joined with their brother prelates in neighboring Congo-Brazzaville to decry a crackdown on illegal immigrants there, mostly impoverished Congolese attracted by a slightly higher standard of living.
The bishops said the anti-immigrant campaign, called Mbata ya bakolo in the local Lingala language, meaning “slap of the elders,” has been characterized by human rights abuses.
For Westerners, the idea of Catholic bishops brokering national elections, or a Catholic charity being responsible for paying public servants, may seem like obvious violations of the notion of church/state separation.
Such notions, however, have little to do with the practical realities of life across much of the developing world, sometimes called the Two-Thirds World.
In non-Western nations, especially in one-party states or where the political class is perceived as hopelessly corrupt, religious bodies are sometimes the only meaningful expressions of civil society – the only zones of life where protest can take shape, and where concern for the common good can be articulated.
To take another African example, when the war-torn West African nation of Sierre Leone needed someone to head its National Election Commission who could be trusted across party lines to oversee the fairness of balloting, it turned to a former Sister of St. Joseph of Cluny and a devout Catholic activist, Christiana Thorpe.
Actually, Congo itself offers the perfect illustration.
Back in the early 1990s, what was then Zaire was feeling its way towards life without strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1997. A transitional “High Council of the Republic” needed someone with moral authority and a reputation for independence to lead the process of drafting a new constitution, acting as the de facto national leader during the fin de regime period.
Nobody from the political class fit the bill, so the nation instead turned to the then-archbishop of Kisangani, a polished and urbane cleric named Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. He not only served as president of the council, but also as transitional speaker of the national Parliament in 1994 – meaning, in effect, that a Catholic bishop was the country’s head of state.
Monsengwo draws mixed reviews for how he handled the role, but he’s gone on to become one of the towering leaders of Catholic Africa. Today he sits on Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisors, the pontiff’s most important “kitchen cabinet” where key policy decisions are hammed out.
(In some ways, Monsengwo was born to lead. He belongs to the royal family of his Basakata tribe; his name actually means, “relative of the chief.”)
Places such as Congo are destined to play an ever greater role in setting the agenda for global Catholicism in the early 21st century. By 2050 its Catholic population is projected to be around 97 million, putting it neck-and-neck with the United States for fourth place on the “largest Catholic nations” list behind Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.
Under the influence of leaders from such backgrounds, it seems likely that the Catholic Church may become steadily less skittish about direct political engagement, reflecting the cultural experience and needs of the developing world.
For many Catholics outside the West, in other words, the question to be asked isn’t whether the Church is too political. It’s whether the Church is political enough, especially where it has the capacity to fill a void that no other actor either can or will.
Kinshasa — Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have requested President Joseph Kabila for a “national dialogue in accordance with the constitution”, where the drafting of the new electoral calendar will be agreed on.
This was after the opposition alleged that the elections expected to happen in 2016 are too dense and close, and called for a new election timetable.
According to Agenzia Fides, there are suspicions that president Kabila intends to extend his term in office that should expire in 2016.
The idea of a third term of Kabila, in violation of the Constitution, had sparked protests early this year.
The Bishops have emphasized that a national dialogue in accordance with the Constitution will be in order, to resolve the election issue.
The Head of State launched a series of meetings with political representatives, civil society and religious leaders in the DRC, including the Catholic bishops. During the meeting, representatives of The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) Bishop Nicolas Djomo,Bishop of Tshumbe and President of CENCO, Bishop Fulgence Muteba of Kilwa Kasenga, in Katanga and Don Leonard Santedi ,Secretary General of CENCO, launched an appeal to establish an atmosphere of mutual trust.
After the meeting, Don Leonardo Santendi, secretary General of CENCO said, “We thanked the President of the Republic of having associated us with the consultations… For us, dialogue is the main path and peaceful way out of a crisis. It is essential to have a national consensus on the electoral calendar”, adding that, “Dialogue must be in strict compliance with the Constitution.”