AFRICA/DR CONGO - Cardinal Ambongo: “The situation in Goma is serious. We fear widespread insecurity in the east of the DRC”

Thursday, 18 April 2024 cardinals   armed groups   violence   local churches  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "The situation in and around Goma is worsening day by day," says Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa, to Fides. He refers to the capital of North Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the M23 guerrillas have taken up arms again since 2021 and have captured several towns.
"The M23 continues to conquer territories while the Congolese army is in complete chaos," said the Cardinal. "What we fear most is the risk of general insecurity, especially in Goma and generally throughout the east of the country." There are several armed groups, such as the Wazalendo, "and it is the population who pays the consequences, with the risk of general insecurity," emphasizes Cardinal Ambongo.

The term "Wazalendo" ("patriots" in Swahili) refers to a coalition of groups that took up arms to defend the population against the M23. However, its initiator Éphraïm Bisimwa, leader of a local messianic sect, was condemned to death last October for the serious incidents of August 30, 2023 against the presence of the Blue Helmets of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in Goma, in which more than 50 people died.
"The arrest and death sentence of the leader of 'Wazalendo' has shown that this group is not homogeneous; some of its followers have even joined the ranks of the M23. It is difficult to control these armed groups, which refer to many leaders", says Cardinal Ambongo.
"Armed groups ultimately become a danger to the population, extorting citizens, committing robberies and murders, and engage in the illegal trade in minerals mined in the region's artisanal mines." "The bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Bukavu have presented a very clear analysis of the reality in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo," continued the Cardinal, referring to the pastoral letter published in mid-April (see Fides, 17/4/2024). "The church itself is in a dangerous situation in this area," he emphasizes. "That is why the bishops of Bukavu Province, like all of us at the national level of the Congolese Episcopal Conference (CENCO), have taken the decision to accompany the population even in this difficult time. The meaning of our pastoral care for a suffering people is to ask ourselves, "how we can show a little of God's love and mercy" to these suffering people. "That's what the Church is trying to do, but it's not always easy," he concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/4/2024)