POST BY EMMA DILLON AND ANASTASSIYA PEREVEZENTSEVA
This blog post we would like to focus on the political, economic, and social crisis in Congo.
Congo, which is located in central sub-Saharan Africa, has been on a steep decline with the continuance of the presidency of Joseph Kabila. Kabila was supposed to step down after his constitutionally mandated two-term limit in December 2016, but managed to hold onto his power through delaying elections and rejecting those who went against him. According to The Washington Post, “The country’s influential conference of Catholic bishops warned in June that the country is in a “very bad” state and called on all Congolese to “stand up” and “take their destiny into their own hands.” This followed an “urgent appeal” from former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and nine former African presidents, who warned that the future of the country is in “grave danger.” As the political opposition and peaceful protesters continue to be oppressed, violence by armed groups, militias, and government forces have escalated.
Central Kasai region has been known for some of the country’s worst violent outbreaks. The violence was triggered after government forces shot dead a local customary chief. Immediately, a spiral of violence broke out and spread across five provinces, displacing more than 1.3 million people. At least 3,300 people have been killed, according to the Catholic Church. More than 600 schools have been attacked or destroyed, and an estimated 1.5 million children are affected by the violence. The response from the government forces has been with excessive force, executing suspected members or sympathizers. There have been reports of soldiers going door to door, killing anyone inside; and in 2017, militia Bana Mura has annihilated entire villages and “shot dead, hacked or burned to death, and mutilated” hundreds of people, including pregnant women, babies and small children, according to the United Nations. During their investigation of these pandemic human rights abuses in March 2017, two members of the United Nations team of experts on Congo — Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalán, a Swede –- were executed. The four Congolese who had accompanied them are still missing. [Source: The Washington Post]
In response, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorized an international investigation into the violence that penetrates the Kasai region. According to The Washington Post, “The resolution, adopted after weeks of intense negotiations, doesn’t go as far as the situation warrants. But it does bring hope of uncovering the truth of the horrific crimes and identifying those responsible. And it’s a step toward justice.” You can learn more about UN efforts to stabilize the situation in Congo on the current UN News Center Spotlight on Congo. Please also join us in prayer and fasting, as Pope Francis has called for on February 23, 2018, the Day of Prayer and fasting for Congo and South Sudan.