Violence, emergence of new militia among Democratic Republic of Congo bishops’ concerns

National Episcopal Conference of Congo Members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). | Credit: CENCO

Persistent violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the emergence of new groups of militia are key concerns of the Catholic bishops in the Central African nation.

In a statement issued at the end of their June 19–22 plenary assembly, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) stated: “We are witnessing the persistence and worsening of insecurity, especially in the eastern part of our country.” 

Security challenges, alongside “the proliferation of armed groups, are of the utmost concern to us,” CENCO members said in their June 22 statement.

They also decried the revival of the March 23 Movement (M23) in the country, saying: “With the resurgence of the M23, supported by Rwanda, part of the national territory has been beyond the control of our armed forces for over a year.”

“In the same vein,” the Church leaders said, “we are witnessing the emergence and expansion of the Mobondo militia in the western part of our country, which is spreading terror right up to the gates of the capital, Kinshasa.”

Between May 11 and May 13, members of the Mobondo militia reportedly attacked villages in Kiwango province, approximately 75 kilometers (about 47 miles) from Kinshasa, killing at least 11 people.

The bishops also expressed concern about the Special Brigade of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a wing of the ruling party, “which sometimes collaborates with the police to hunt down political opponents and other peaceful citizens with a critical view of the country’s current governance.”

The bishops said it is unfortunate that their recommendations on security and national cohesion are not adhered to.

They cited their November 2022 statement in which they called for concerted efforts to address security challenges in the country, which is home to Africa’s largest Catholic population, saying: “The hour is critical. Our country is in danger.”

In their June 22 statement, CENCO members acknowledged with appreciation the diplomatic, political, and military initiatives taken by the Congolese government to restore peace in the Central African nation.

“We particularly salute the bravery and patriotism of our armed forces despite the difficult working conditions,” the bishops said.

This story was originally published on ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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