Bishops of DR Congo call for peaceful protest after dozens killed
By Christine Kinghombe and Evariste Citeya
The Congolese government says that 36 people died and 170 others were injured in the wake of protests against the United Nation’s mission in eastern DRC.
In response, the Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo expressed their understanding of people’s anger, but said that violence is never tolerable.
In a statement signed by the president of the DRC Bishop’s Conference (CENCO), Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, the Bishops called on people to “demonstrate peacefully”.
The Bishops say they are closely following the unrest with regret and sadness, while noting the anger people feel in the face of the limitations of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
The UN force in Congo has around 16,000 troops, but has failed to stabilize the insecurity in the country’s east, which has raged for over 20 years.
Call for peaceful protests
In accordance with the laws of the country, the Congolese Bishops invited citizens to avoid violence and looting, which they said will only perpetuate the evil and suffering of the people.
The Bishops also called for an investigation into last week’s unrest, and offered their condolences to grieving families, entrusting those who died to Divine Mercy.
Message for a return to peace
In order to maintain peace, the Congolese Bishops recommended that politicians and community leaders refrain from speech that could lead to hatred and violence.
They encouraged the government to engage in dialogue with MONUSCO and representatives of civil society, in order to re-establish the conditions for a return to peace.
Roots of the demonstrations
Following the protests, the Congolese government has asked the spokesman of the UN peacekeeping mission, Mathias Gillmann, to leave the country.
The government says he made “indelicate and inappropriate” remarks implying that MONUSCO lacked the military means to deal with the rebel movement, M23, which lies at the root of the current tension in the east of the country.
These most recent protests against the UN mission in DR Congo began on 25 July, and have intensified in several areas of the east of the country.
Demonstrators have spoken out against the ineffectiveness of the UN force in dealing with national and international armed groups that have been operating in these areas for more than two decades.