West & Central Africa

Hopes fade for Congo peace as Catholic bishops step aside

The conference of Catholic bishops (CENCO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, negotiating a peaceful transition of power after President Joseph Kabila’s tenure of 17 years in power expired in December 2016, has withdrawn from the talks.
The bishops, giving their reason for stepping aside, said, “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.” The bishops said the politicians have acted selfishly and have failed to “prioritise the interests of the nation”.

While a basic framework for a power-sharing in the country was reached last year but agreement over the details have been difficult to reach. The bishops say politicians have not agreed on the choice of a transitional prime minister.

Earlier in January, the bishops had warned that the deal was at risk due to insincerity on the part of the politicians. This is hampering attempts to reach a compromise, they claimed.

Soon after the collapse of talks, yesterday, Tuesday 28 March, demonstrators took to the streets burning tyres on the streets in several areas in Kinshasa forcing shops and schools to close.

At least 40 people have been killed in violence since last December when Kabila refused to conduct elections citing lack of funds.

Responding to the pulling out of the Bishops, Congo’s main opposition alliance, UPDS coalition, in a statement said, “I call on the Congolese people to mobilise themselves for a big peaceful march throughout the republic and the Diaspora,” “I call on our millions of supporters … to resist the dictatorship taking root in our … country.”

There are increasing fears that this will plunge the country into another protracted war.