NAIROBI, Kenya – A Catholic bishop from the Congo expressed fear that the country’s upcoming general elections be marred by violence unless the government of President Joseph Kabila and opposition parties work to reconcile their differences.
Bishop Placide Lubamba Ndjibu of Kasongo told Catholic News Service early in May during a visit to Nairobi that sharp political differences remain between Kabila and his opponents.
Kabila is facing term limits and is resisting international pressure to step down by the end of the year as Congo’s constitution requires. His primary opposition is Moise Katumbi, a former Kabila ally and former governor of Katanga province, a major copper producer.
The bishop said the date of the election appears to be the major sticking point between the political adversaries.
“On the country’s pending general elections, for example, the government has already expressed some probability of rescheduling the elections, while the opposition political parties are against the move,” he explained.
Bishop Lubamba also noted that many government observers believe that Kabila is considering changes to the constitution that would allow him to run for a third term. Katumbi’s supporters are resisting such a move and his supporters have amassed in protests in major cities only to be met with a harsh police response that have resulted in beatings and arrests.
“As shepherds in the Catholic faith, we continue to talk to both political sides — the government and the opposition political parties. We hope all will be well for the country and its people enjoy peaceful elections, come November this year,” Bishop Lubamba said.
He disclosed that the Catholic Church planned to undertake a national civic education campaign, beginning in May, with the goal of educating citizens on the effectiveness of peacefully participating in the general elections.
The bishop described the effort as “part of the church’s contribution” to the country. The bishops planned to discuss other steps the church can take to keep peace during their plenary meeting in June, he said.
“By then, the Catholic Church will be in a better position to weigh the country’s political situation, Bishop Lubamba said.
The bishop was in Nairobi to preside over the April 30 ordination of priests for the Missionaries of Africa congregation. Appointed Bishop for Kasongo Diocese in 2014, Bishop Lubamba is a member of the congregation.
In September 2014, the Congolese bishops called on elected officials to respect the 2006 constitution in response to talk of amending a section of the document that bans changes to certain provisions including the presidential term of office.