DR Congo: asking for justice and to promote reconciliation

From the assassination of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa to the violence in the country today. The Catholic bishops speak out.

“More than 24 years have passed since the assassination of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa in Bukavu in circumstances that have not yet been clarified. People want to know the truth,” said the Archbishop of Bukavu, Mgr. François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo.

The Bishop continued: “We encourage all human rights activities that give an objective look at the events that have occurred in this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the past to the present day. Remembering our dead, asking for justice and reparation is the best way to promote sincere reconciliation so that these murders, both mass and individual, never take place again.”

Unfortunately, however, the violence in the country does not seem to end, which, according to a study by the Canadian NGO Impact, is due to the presence of 2,700 gold mines. These mines produce 15 to 20 tons per year, of which about a third are supposed to reach Rwanda via Bukavu. In 2018, Rwanda allegedly produced 2,000 kg of gold, while the United Arab Emirates alone said they had received 12,000 kg of gold from Rwanda.

A second element of the connection with Rwanda is the Banyamulenge of Rwandan origin, who have lived in South Kivu for years and whom the Congolese government would like to allow to administer the areas they colonize, like in Minembwe, an area in South Kivu that has become a local government. This decision made in Kinshasa was seen locally as an imposition and, above all, an expropriation of the land.

The Bishop of Uvira Sébastien-Joseph Muyengo, expressed his regret regarding the decision to establish the Municipality of Minembwe. “We regret that this act, which is far from promoting real peace in the highlands, is, on the contrary, causing a great deal of hostility throughout the diocese, in the region and also in the country, mainly due to the special treatment that Minembwe has compared to others […]. Yesterday the question was that of nationality, today it is the land. We can give citizenship to those who want and deserve it, but under no circumstances can land be redistributed. For the people, it is not a rural community, but they consider it occupied areas. We fear that the Minembwe case will encourage the so-called Balkanization of Congo.”

The President of the Republic, Félix Tshisekedi, during a press conference held on October 8 in Goma (North Kivu) declared to “cancel what has been done so far for Minembwe.”

For Jason Stearn, researcher and founder of the Congo Research Group at New York University, it would have been appropriate to initiate a dialogue between the participating communities before establishing the new local government.

“The Minembwe issue is a legal issue, but also a broader cultural and political issue. I think there was some political uncertainty. It’s worth talking about living together in South Kivu, it’s worth talking about the Banyamulenge’s rights to access self-government. But we cannot do it by simply imposing it on Kinshasa. It was clear that the creation of the Minembwe local government would have created a very strong controversy.”

During a recent homily, the Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa said that “the situation in South Kivu, in the diocese of Uvira, near Minembwe, where the armies of neighbouring countries, Rwanda and Burundi, are there to challenge us. And the situation in Tanganyika: even Zambia, which until now has been considered a friendly country, dares to occupy our territory.”

“The truth is that Congo has nine neighbours, which are all present in our country, in most cases with their armies. As for the stripping of its natural resources, this takes place in broad daylight, with the complicity of some Congolese, without the population being able to really benefit from it.”