Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Sometimes described as an area where there is neither war nor peace, the DRC’s Kivu area apart from being marginalised by successive Congolese governments is a humanitarian emergency. Armed conflict is deliberately perpetrated by rebels bent on plundering the country’s abundant natural resources.
Coltan is an essential mineral for the hi-tech industry
The DRC is a land rich with forest and mineral resources. The illegal mining of Coltan does not benefit local villagers. Instead, communities are attacked and made to flee as their lands are seized for illegal mining.
Coltan is an essential mineral used in the hi-tech industry. It is necessary for the production of mobile phones and electronics. The Eastern Mountain Gorilla populations are also under siege and endangered as they are caught up in the conflict.
With such levels of insecurity, people cannot farm their lands; Malnutrition among children has inevitably become prevalent in the areas affected.
Armed conflict and the Ebola virus have distressed communities
“The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) is very concerned about the socio-security situation prevailing in the east of our country, particularly in the Provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, because of the resurgence of violence and killings. Massive displacement of families has only worsened the suffering of an already impoverished and traumatised people. (Entire villages and communities are distressed) by kidnappings, the almost permanent presence of armed groups and the Ebola virus,” said the Bishops in their latest appeal to Congolese authorities and the international community.
The Bishops added, “The consequences of these recurring conflicts are: Deaths, the abandonment and destruction of homes and farming fields, food insecurity, immoral activities, disruption of the school calendar and the risk of the spread of the Ebola virus,” The Bishops said.
Solidarity with the people of Kivu
Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, the Archbishop of Kisangani and President of the DRC’s Bishops Conference, expressed the solidarity of other Bishops with dioceses of the Kivu region.
“On behalf of the Bishops who are members of CENCO, and in my name, I express our solidarity and our fraternal closeness with Bishop Melchizedek Sikuli, Bishop of Butembo-Beni and Bishop Sébastien-Joseph Muyengo, the Bishop of Uvira, as well as with all the people of God who live in these regions. We take this opportunity to offer our most Christian condolences to all families who have lost (family members) in these conflicts and to express our compassion to all those who are affected by these unfortunate events. Our thoughts also go out to the victims of the plane crash that occurred on Sunday, 24 November 2019 in Goma, as well as families affected,” said Archbishop Utembi Tapa.
Need to scale up humanitarian and peace efforts
The Bishops nevertheless congratulated the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for some of their success in disrupting and repealing activities of rebel forces such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
The Bishops suggest the establishment of a wide-reaching emergency programme and an end to hostilities in this part of the country. They advocate for the full restoration of the authority and state institutions such as the national police, army and immigration, among others.
These steps should go hand in hand with a workable national-level dialogue aimed at fostering a climate of justice, peace and reconciliation among communities in conflict.
The Bishops conclude with an invocation of the intercession of “the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Congo and Mother of the ‘Prince of Peace’” to watch over the country and bless it.