President Kabila and the Catholic Church: Are All Bets Off?

By Scott Morgan

The last fourteen months in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been chaotic to say the least. It has a President who should have left office in December 2016, who still remains in office and plans to continue doing so.

President Kabila has been adept at buying off his opposition over the last few years to promote his agenda. Well, there is one group that has been attempting to stay above the fray but in recent months has had its reputation sullied by the authorities in Kinshasa. That entity is the Catholic Church.

There was some surprise when word came out that the Congolese Security Forces deployed Tear Gas and fired into several Catholic Churches on New Year’s Eve. 8 worshippers were killed and over 120 people were detained nationwide. 82 of the arrests occurred in the capital of Kinshasa, and some of those taken into custody were priests. As a result, many congregants promptly joined the opposition calls for President Kabila to step down.

Why was this action taken against the Catholics? December 31st was the 1st anniversary of the deal that the Church brokered between the Government and the Political Opposition to end that particular phase of the impasse created by the failure of not organising elections on November 30th - as mandated by the Congolese Constitution. The terms of the deal were not totally adhered to by the Government.

The deal was to create a Transitional Government by having a leader of the Opposition appointed to plan and oversee elections that would be run and have a peaceful transfer of power in the Country. President Kabila would retain the office of the Presidency while updating voting rolls and printing ballots took place. In the history of the DRC, this has not happened once in almost 60 years of Independence. If this were to take place it would indeed be a major point in the history of the country. However, the goalposts were moved yet again as excuse after excuse were offered about why elections could not be held .

Regretfully, the allies of President Kabila saw fit to undermine this deal, even at one point calling into question the loyalty of the Priests to the Congolese State. That is a most chilling concept to hear. There is a perceived notion of loyalty to the Vatican - instead of to the President (or the country) - as his allies are spinning that the Church is seeking to drive the people of the Congo away from Kabila.  On the other hand, his actions can be seen as accomplishing what he is accusing the Church of actually doing. Bear in mind that roughly half the population identifies as being Roman Catholic. This is a substantial number in the Central African Country.

However, this is not the only motive for the crackdown by the Congolese Government. In June 2017, violence broke out in Kasai Province. The Church was very critical of both sides in the fighting calculating that 3,383 people were killed in the province. It reported that FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) had destroyed 10 villages while the insurgents had destroyed 4 villages themselves. Church property was destroyed during this period of horrific violence.

Although it cannot be proven that the Government is angry with the criticism (over what had happened in Kasai) levied against it by the Catholic Church, the Church's planned protests on New Year’s Eve (which were dealt with for the reason of not having proper permits), over the failure to abide by the deal, gave the Security Forces an adequate reason to move against them.

So, 2017 ended with a bad sign for what to expect in the DRC. As to what happens in the country this year, it appears that all bets are off.

(Image: President Kabila at the UNGA - UN)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Whenever the Catholic Church gets involved in politics things give an awkward turn. Remember when the Church got involved in Brazilian politics?


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