Congolese Catholics continue to mobilize against Kabila

Congolese Catholics during a demonstration in Kinshasa

The Catholic group that previously organized three protest marches against the government in Democratic Republic of the Congo has announced a “general mobilization” in August with the aim of forcing President Joseph Kabila to resign.

The Lay Coordination Committee issued a statement on July 7 saying the action would take place on Aug. 12-14.

The group, which is an officially recognized association of lay Catholics from Kinshasa Archdiocese, has been responsible for organizing the three Catholic protest marches against the DR Congo government held between December 2017 and February 2018.

The marches were in protest against the cancellation of the national elections, which were due to be held at the end of 2017.

This violated the so-called “St. Sylvester’s agreement” that had previously been reached between government and opposition leaders.

Police cracked down severely on the protests resulting in 17 deaths.

These latest “major actions” planned for mid-August will take the form of a series of peaceful marches, sit-ins, general strikes and other acts of civil disobedience.

The openly stated aim is to “obtain the resignation” of Kabila and his government, which have now become “genuine obstacles to credible, transparent and peaceful elections,” the committee said.

The Lay Coordination Committee has accused Kabila of wanting to seek a third term of office despite a constitutional prohibition that should have prevented him from becoming a candidate following the end of his second term on Dec. 20, 2016.

Since that date, the DR Congo has fallen into a prolonged political and social crisis.

Kabila accuses Catholic Church institutions of “sowing disorder” in the country.

The tone of the committee’s statement was particularly firm. If Kabila refuses to respect the Constitution and continues to present himself as a candidate, the group will appeal to the Congolese people to no longer recognize him “as legitimate head of state” from the moment he officially launches his candidacy.

The group has also called on the international community to do the same.

Are the committee’s fears justified? Is Kabila intending to be a candidate? The final date for registering candidates for the Dec. 23 presidential election is Aug. 8.

The election platform comprising Kabila’s national union government parties has indicated that it will announce its candidate prior to that date.

 

While the DR Congo is 93 percent Christian, the number Catholics is growing, according to a study by the Target research group.

The study found that Catholics now comprise 39 percent of the Congolese population compared to 36 percent in 2017.