Tear gas attack on church service injures two in Congo
Police from the Democratic Republic of Congo fired at worshippers celebrating a mass on Friday 12 January injuring two people.
The Catholic Church’s insistence that President Joseph Kabila honours the 2016 agreement not to context the Presidency has led to protests and a crackdown by the authorities.
Catholic leaders, ambassadors of Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Swedent and representatives from the US, the EU and the Vatican attended the mass at which two were injured.
Kabila, was to leave office after his tenure in December 2016, but refused and in a brokered agreement by the church, agreed to set an election by the end of 2017. Congo’s election commission, however, said the vote cannot be held until December 2018. The church was dissatisfied with this arrangement.
Opposition activist Mike Mukebayi Nkoso said Kabila’s plan is “to organize elections unilaterally and through them to push forward” his political heir.
“His successor will organize a constitutional referendum six months after elections, and once the constitution has been changed Kabila will have the chance to get back to business. That’s what we face” Nkoso said. “So we need to stand as the church is standing, stand up together behind the church to block this Machiavellian scheme,” he added.
The spokesman of the episcopate, Father Donatien Nshole, on Friday called onCatholics to “peacefully block all attempts to confiscate or seize power by non-democratic or anti-constitutional ways.” He said, explaining that the country was “witnessing a campaign of propaganda, of disinformation, of libel even, orchestrated by heads of the institutions of the republic against the Catholic church and its leadership,” Nshole charged.
The Mass commemorated the six people killed during a government’s crackdown on New Year’s Eve protest marches organised to demand that Kabila leaves office.
Deputy Bishop Donatien Bafuidinsoni, speakind during the Mass, said, “If we have lost a brother, a sister, we have gained heroes, real ones, because they have mingled their blood with that of all those who have died for a change of power, the guarantee of democracy,” he said,
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the key figure in the call for Kabila to leave, last week, said, “It’s time that truth won out over systematic lies, that mediocre figures stand down and that peace and justice reign in DR Congo,” he declared and accused “our supposedly courageous men in uniform” of “channelling barbarism.”
Monsengwo was immediately condemned by the government for “insulting remarks.” The government said it “cannot accept that such statements come from a minister of God,” the government said, which hammered home “the secular nature of the Congolese state.”
Friday’s events records an escalation in the standoff between the government and the country’s 80 million Catholics who have provide education and healthcare to the country in the absence of basic infrastructure and corruption and conflicts.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.