Displacement and Conflict Haunts Southern Congo : Bishops decry worsening conditions and gov't/UN inattention

Bishops in southern Congo have denounced growing separatist violence in Katanga province and criticized the national government for ignoring it.

"Besides grave violations of human rights, socio-political insecurity is disrupting our province's economic fabric and amplifying our people's misery," said bishops from the eight dioceses in the ecclesiastical province of Lubumbashi.

Advertisement

"We denounce the black hand which manipulates young people and transforms them into pitiless killers," the bishops said, noting young people were being forced to become child soldiers and kill other Congolese.

"Continually drugged and subjected to magic-religious practices, they are armed with assault rifles and small arms and promised unexpected happiness if they rob, pillage, rape and torture," the bishops said, warning, "Those who use young people should know they are committing crimes against humanity which may be referred to the International Criminal Court."

In a pastoral letter published Feb. 21 in the Le Congolais daily, the bishops criticized the central government in Kinshasa, saying it should be concerned with the people's suffering and take "account of their legitimate demands."

U.N. officials warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Katanga province after an estimated 500,000 people were displaced by worsening violence. News reports said the Kata Katanga separatist movement had stepped up activities in the mineral-rich region's Mitwaba, Manono and Pweto districts, pillaging villages and mining operations and threatening Lubumbashi, the regional capital.

Reports added that Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping forces were preoccupied by parallel conflicts of the country's North Kivu and Orientale provinces.

The bishops said they counted on government and U.N. officials to hear the Catholic Church's "cry of distress" and act to end attacks on human dignity.

"Those displaced by war are mostly without humanitarian assistance and affected by high rates of death and sickness. Vulnerable small children, women and the elderly are among the most affected and dying en masse without proper care in the greatest distress," the bishops said.

They said the weakness of the government, unequal wealth distribution and legal impunity had contributed to the region's problems, and said the church had appealed since 2007, via its Commission for Natural Resources, for "an exploitation of natural riches" in which local people benefit.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A reflection for the second Friday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 15, 2017
Father James Martin, S.J. and Ross Douthat at the Civility in America Part 1: Religion event held at The Sheen Center on Dec. 13th. (America/Antonio DeLoera-Brust).
Is there a duty for Christians to represent a certain kind of voice in the public discourse?
Angelo Jesus CantaDecember 14, 2017
A spokesman for the archdiocese described the meeting as “personal” in nature and aimed at “renewing a friendship that goes back 15 years or so.”
Michael J. O’LoughlinDecember 14, 2017
Black women cannot be expected to continue to save white people from the poor choices they make.
Anthea ButlerDecember 14, 2017