YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Congo’s Catholic Church have condemned the “illicit enrichment” by officials of the new government of President Felix Tshisekedi.
Tshisekedi replaced Joseph Kabila in January 2019 in the first peaceful transfer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s history.
When he took power, the new president promised to fight endemic corruption and make life better for all Congolese people, but the country’s bishops issued a March 2 statement claiming “corruption and the embezzlement of public funds continue.”
“We are witnessing the illicit and scandalous enrichment by a handful of political actors to the detriment of the population,” the bishops said. “To make matters worse, these crimes are committed by the same people who are called to be guarantors of the public good. Measures taken to combat these ills have remained largely ineffective.”
Pierre-Honoré Kazadi Ngube-Ngube – the presidential candidate who claims to have won the most votes in the 2018 election, alleging Tshisekedi came to power only because of a backroom deal with Kabila – on March 1 accused Tshisekedi’s family of looting minerals in the Katanga region, in the south-east of the country.
“There is looting of minerals, copper, cobalt, lithium, gold, etc. in the greater Katanga. The current presidential family creates parallel companies and private ghosts at the expense of the Congolese people, and the members of the presidential family spread terror to the miners” he said.
The president’s office has not commented on the accusations.
Besides corruption and graft, the country’s bishops also expressed concern about the rising insecurity in the Congo, which has ongoing insurgencies in several regions, as well as uncontrolled banditry and other lawlessness.
The eastern provinces are most affected, as a bewildering array of groups continue to battle for the control of the mineral rich area.
“A year after the presidential election, several crises have arisen that cause concern for the long-awaited social change,” write the bishops.
“We remain concerned by the persistence of widespread insecurity in the east of the country, sown by local and foreign groups, particularly in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu” the statement continues.
“We have never counted so many deaths in less than a year in this part of the country, as is currently the case. Insecurity also spreads in other forms in the big cities of the country, which gives the impression that the people are abandoned to themselves,” the bishops said.
The bishops also expressed concern over Tshisekedi’s relationship with Kabila, whose party has formed an alliance with the president’s party in country’s parliament.
The alliance has remained shaky, bishops’ statement said there is “a worrying tension which broods within the ruling coalition that has repercussions on governance and undermines the functioning of the State. The allies seem more concerned with their political positioning than with the service to be rendered to the People who continue to languish in misery.”
They said many of the problems the country faces remain without adequate solutions, due to the crisis that is undermining the coalition.
“It is unacceptable that the country is held hostage by an agreement which, moreover, is kept secret,” the statement says.
Over half of the DR Congo’s 90 million people are Catholic, and the Church is the only nation-wide institution that has broad public support. In addition, the Catholic Church plays an outsized role in public life, providing much the Congo’s educational, health, and social welfare infrastructure.
Lay Catholic organizations were active in the protests that eventually led to Kabila deciding to not seek an additional term.
In their statement, the bishops said they still believe in the capacity of the Congolese people to recover from it’s the current situation, and said the first step for the government to regain the trust of the people is to follow through on promises to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption.
They said they hoped “the investigations launched into the embezzlement of public funds will not be an illusion but will lead to tangible results for the interest of the country.”
They also called for the depoliticization of the management of public enterprises, calling on the government to favour competence over political connections, “because public enterprises are not cash cows for political groupings, but rather production units for the nation.”
The bishops called on the country’s citizens to exercise goodwill and “a patriotic momentum” to turn things around.
“No one else can better rebuild the country without the participation of the Congolese in the first place,” they said. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not condemned to remain in conditions of poverty, bad governance, corruption, violence and many other evils.”
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