On 28th November millions of Congolese will vote in their country’s second elections in 40 years. A delegation of Catholic Congolese Bishops (CENCO) is calling on all candidates to keep the peace and when the result is known, to respect it, without turning to violence.
Archbishop Marcel Utembi of Kisangani said: “Our wish is that the winner will be a good leader; one who will respect the constitution, respect his duty to society, take office peacefully and give people the opportunity to work. Through this we can witness the development of our country.”
A terrible legacy
Much is at stake as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares for its second round of national elections. It is one of the world’s most poverty-stricken nations, with its infrastructure barely functioning. A country the size of Western Europe, it has only 300 miles of tarmac road.
More than 3 million people died in the second Congo War of 1998-2003. Peace deals that were brokered between the warring parties in 2002, late 2007 and early 2008 have not put a stop to violence or human rights abuses, and rape and sexual violence are now an endemic problem. More than 1,000 people are dying daily from preventable diseases, poverty and sexual violence. An estimated 80 per cent of the population live on less than $2 a day and life expectancy is just 47 years.
A pivotal time
The delegation of CENCO Bishops who visited the UK in October expressed their grave concern at the continued destabilisation of the country. Both Congolese and foreign armed militia are linked to the illegal exploitation the country’s natural resources, such as coltan (used in mobile phone manufacture), gold and diamonds. The Bishops described these militia groups as spreading “death and desolation” with “extraordinary cruelty”.
Bishop John Arnold, Chair of CAFOD, who travelled to DR Congo in July, said:
“Now is a pivotal time for the future of the DRC. The country showed promise and made significant progress after the elections in 2006. However, much remains to be done. The international community will need to be generous in assisting whoever wins the coming election, to ensure that the Congolese people truly have the possibility to flourish. One of the most worrying issues that continues to undermine lasting development and progress is the continued conflict across the country. People live in fear and many communities are victims of attacks, rapes and murders by bandits and militia groups”.
Please pray for the people of DRC at this crucial time.