Congo’s bishops are urgently seeking to rescue a government-opposition peace accord, reached in the final minutes of 2016.
“Our latest meeting should have covered the question of governance -
but contacts between the political actors are, unfortunately, not yet
realized,” the bishops’ conference said on January 24. “We have retired
to consider what next, after concluding there was no real will to tackle
the problems quickly.”
The statement was issued amid attempts to ensure implementation of
the church-brokered deal, which would allow President Joseph Kabila to
remain in power pending elections by late 2017, alongside a government
headed by an opposition-nominated prime minister.
Meanwhile, Congo’s Council of Lay Catholics urged politicians to stop “abusing the good faith of church and people.”
“Everything done to delay implementation must be seen as nothing
other than a mockery,” the council’s spokesman, Vincent de Paul
Kekolemba, told Radio Okapi on January 22.
“The political class wishes to turn in circles, holding the bishops
up to derision and clinging to their egotistic instincts. How long will
they abuse our patience?” he asked.
The Catholic church makes up around half of the 67.5 million
inhabitants of the mineral-rich Congo, widely believed to be Africa’s
most Catholic country, where up to 6 million people died in the
The bishops’ conference launched a mediation bid in August after
opposition leaders accused Kabila of seeking to delay elections and
retain power after the December 20 expiration of his second and final
Under the December 31 accord, witnessed in the capital Kinshasa by
foreign diplomats, the president must comply with constitutional
provisions barring him from a third term and cooperate with a 28-member
National Transition Council, headed by opposition leader Etienne
Tshisekedi, in preparing elections.
However, Agence France-Presse reported on January 25 that Tshisekedi,
84, had left for health treatment in Europe.
AFP reported that
disagreement continued over the choice of prime minister and composition
of the Transition Council, and over the fate of some of Congo’s
estimated 400 political prisoners.