In an uncompromising statement, the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Bukavu, in the far east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), denounce the failure of the government to face up to the challenges with which it is confronted.
At the end of an ordinary session, the bishops of six dioceses in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Bukavu, Butembo-Beni, Goma, Kasongo, Kindu and Uvira – addressed a series of warnings to the country’s government. Their dioceses are situated in North and South Kivu, on the border with Rwanda, areas which are rich in natural resources.
Besides the quality of the climate and the fertility of the land, they contain vital mineral resources, particularly coltan, a mineral which is indispensable for high-tech devices. These blessings have turned into curses for the inhabitants of these regions, who are being subjected to the violence of armed militias which take possession of territories to exploit them.
Unfortunately, the country’s government does not appear to be able to meet the challenge. The Congolese Church plays an important role in society, and in a statement sent to pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) the bishops are not afraid to openly denounce the government’s failure, which is leading to dramatic consequences for the faithful.
The security forces are showing themselves incapable of containing the violence of the several armed groups which aim to control entire swathes of Congolese territory, seeking to provoke the secession of this part of the country with the help of a politics of terror.
The cruelty of the actions carried out against the population, and the suffering of the Church are clearly expressed in the bishops’ statement.
“Pastoral work is being disrupted by the activity of ADF-NALU and other armed groups which are cruelly massacring peaceful citizens, even close to the positions of the security forces which are supposed to be protecting them”, the statement says.
The bishops express a general suspicion that some of the armed groups that operate in the region are funded and controlled by neighbouring countries.
“We ask ourselves why the Congolese state continues to invite foreign armies with unknown mandates while the embargo which prevented the Congolese government from procuring arms to ensure the safety of the country and its inhabitants has already been lifted by the United Nations Security Council. Why does the question of national security continue to be contracted out?”
Beside this, recent natural disasters, in particular the May 2023 floods and mudslides, caused the deaths of hundreds of people, due largely to the disrepair of infrastructure, according to the bishops.
“In the light of this latest in an endless list of natural disasters, we remain convinced that if state services responsible for land and for managing the environment would carry out their work properly, human lives would certainly be spared, and such disasters could have been avoided.”
Finally, the bishops also address the government on the importance of the next presidential elections which will take place in December, claiming that many conditions are lacking which would ensure that the vote takes place with respect for democratic values.
“The material used to carry out this important activity has shown its limits, the quality of the voting cards produced, the insufficiency and the quality of machines, the slowness of agents, the closure of enrolment before all the voters have been registered… None of this bodes well for the electoral process.”
Addressing the international community, the bishops recall that Congo is a sovereign state and not a land which can be pillaged with impunity. The signatories denounce the attitude of companies which are profiting from the pillage of natural resources, and conclude by taking up once more the appeal of Pope Francis during his visit in January and February 2023: “Take your hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo, take your hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be plundered”.