Monday, October 10, 2016

Catholic Church pulls out of national dialogue in Congo

Pope Francis talks President Joseph Kabila  at the Vatican (AP)The Catholic Church has pulled out of a national dialogue in Congo amid a stand-off between the country’s president and the opposition.

“Only an inclusive dialogue which respects the constitutional order will provide a framework for resolving our crisis,” said Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani, president of the Congolese bishops’ conference. “A large part of our fellow citizens will not feel themselves affected by a compromise which fails to obtain real solutions.”

The statement was published this week as Congo’s main opposition leaders boycotted talks in the capital.

The Church’s representative at the national dialogue, Mgr Donatien Nshole, told Voice of America that the bishops’ conference believed President Joseph Kabila should not be seeking a third term and would not sign an accord that failed “to engage all political actors” and “respect the constitutional order.”

Archbishop Utembi said the Church had urged the government to meet opposition preconditions, including the release of political prisoners and return of seized media, and would continue pressing for “a wide consensus.”

In August the Catholic bishops’ conference launched a mediation plan after opposition leaders accused Kabila of seeking to keep power by delaying autumn elections.

The Pope expressed concern about the crisis during a 20-minute meeting with Kabila at the Vatican late last month, a week after security forces dispersed opposition protesters in Kinshasa, killing 49 and injuring and arresting hundreds more. 

A Vatican statement said both sides had underlined the need for “a respectful and inclusive dialogue” among politicians, civil society representatives and religious communities.

However, speaking on October 4, Kabila confirmed he favoured postponing the elections. 

Congo’s electoral commission warned revising electoral lists could take until November 2018.

Up to six million people died in a series of 1995-2003 wars in Congo, formerly Zaire, where armed groups have exploited a lack of stable government to plunder natural resources.

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