The Teresian Association in Congo has a group of native members and a presence of decades with very humble activities and projects: Karibuni Library, Wome's support in Kikwit, street children in Kinshasa... in which, while fulfilling its mission and charisma, it receives much from this welcoming and life-loving people, open to faith and clinging to hope.
We want to say at least a few words about what is happening there, and join ourselves to those people of good will in different latitudes and diverse contexts who pray, work, and strive to transform situations of human suffering without apparent solutions for their life and future.
The electoral tangle
The constitutional court of DR of Congo ruled on January 20th, that Mr Tshisekedi had won after rejecting a challenge from rival Martin Fayulu. Mr Fayulu, who does not accept the result, said his supporters should organise "non-violent protests all over the country to defend its sovereignty".
On December 30th, elections were held in this country to replace Joseph Kabila, who had been in power for 18 years, although legally his term should have ended two years earlier.
That same day, Pope Francis asked in the Angelus: "Let us pray together for those who suffer violence and Ebola in that country. I hope everyone commits himself/herself to maintaining a peaceful climate that may allow the elections to unfold smoothly and peacefully."
The elections were held in a climate of corruption, violence, suffering, abnormality... Millions of people came to vote hoping to obtain at least some democratic results thanks to the deployment of more than forty thousand independent observers with the support of the Church.
At the close of the polls, however, a situation of chaos erupted over the results. Ten days later data was provided facilitating the proclamation of a winner - Felix Tshisekedi - without showing any real evidence in the ballots, nor the recount of what the rest of the candidates had obtained. According to polls, the winner would have been Martin Fayulu of the opposition coalition "Lamuka" which means "awake" in the Lingala language.
The ongoing manipulation seems to be directed by Kabila himself in order to perpetuate his power, despite having promised two years ago with the mediation of the Episcopal Conference of Congo to follow the agreements of “San Silvestre 2016” to share power with the opposition, not to change the constitution to extend his mandate, free the political prisoners and respect the freedom of expression and demonstration.
Climate of violence
In these two years since the agreement until the recent elections, the climate of violence has been increasing. The UN Mission in the Congo (Monusco) has denounced repeated violent actions by soldiers and government police. Adding to this situation of armed conflict there is also the denounced humanitarian crisis of poverty, hunger, exile, wide spread violence and especially against women... in a country where the abundance of minerals and natural resources is enriching their plunderers.
Precisely a Congolese, Dr. Denis Mukwege, received last December in Oslo the Nobel Peace Prize 2018. In his speech he denounced: "I come from one of the richest countries on the planet. Yet the people of my country are among the poorest of the world. The troubling reality is that the abundance of our natural resources – gold, coltan, cobalt and other strategic minerals – is the root cause of war, extreme violence and abject poverty… My country is being systematically looted with the complicity of people claiming to be our leaders, looted for their power, their wealth and their glory; looted at the expense of millions of innocent men, women and children abandoned in extreme poverty, while the profits from our minerals end up in the pockets of a predatory oligarchy.”
The Church asks the UN for action
Monsignor Marcel Utembi Tapa, archbishop of Kisangani and president of the Episcopal Conference at a press conference on January 15th, read a letter sent to the UN Security Council in which the bishops of Congo express that they take note of the provisional results that for the first time in recent history represent an alternative in the leadership of the Country. "However -they add-, based on the analysis of the data gathered by the their mission observers, the Bishops Conference sees that the results of the presidential elections published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) do not correspond to the data collected in the voting and counting centers ."
The Congolese bishops ask for solidarity with their people and that "the Security Council request the NEC to publish the electoral records as soon as possible so that the candidates have the opportunity to compare their data with those of the Electoral Commission." In the face of foreseeable disputes over allegations of fraud, they also ask that the UN "invite the interested parties to facilitate the path of truth and peace".
The non-native TA members who reside there are living this situation with understandable concern, united to the Congolese people. They have not wanted to return to their countries of origin, an option that the European embassies have offered to all the missionaries. What they ask is that we do not forget this situation and that we do not stop reflecting on its causes and our responsibility –big or small- in building peace.
Translation: C. Zabalegui and R. Camenron.
Sources: specialized agencies, IT members testimonies, ONGD InteRed and internacional news.