The Catholic Church's Political Activism in Africa: Right or Wrong?

By Scott Morgan

When one thinks of Persecution of Christians in Africa the initial thoughts often turn to the Central African Republic, Sudan or Nigeria for what has been taking place within these Nations.

That being said there seems to be another region of Africa with a long history of conflict that now appears to be a new flashpoint in the struggle to protect the Rights of Christians to freely practice their faith without the acts of repressive regimes.  The region in question happens to be the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Most people didn’t pay attention to the incidents that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on December 31st, 2017. That date is crucial in the current political impasse that seemingly does not end in the Country. A year ago, on that date, the Catholic Church was able to broker a deal between several political parties that would allow for Presidential Elections to replace Joseph Kabila after missing a Constitutionally mandated deadline of November 30,2016.

The Government however took actions that have been justly acknowledged as reneging on that deal. Whereupon the Catholic Church expressed its frustration by holding protest marches in the capital of Kinshasa, and attempting to do so in other locations around the country. These efforts were brutally repressed by the Security Forces including firing tear gas into churches to disrupt services and parishioners as they left at least 5 dead. This action also compelled the Catholics to shift position from being a broker attempting to resolve the political impasse to having a more bellicose position against Kabila remaining President of the Country.

One has to ask: is the unfolding situation in the Congo more of an isolated incident or just a symptom of a issue that is gradually being exposed among the other states in the region? Better yet, why has it taken so long for these concerns to come to light?

Another country in the region that appears to have a similar issue is Uganda. Current President Museveni - who is attempting to extend his rule in power into a fifth decade - is apparently feuding with Catholic Archbishop Lwanga. The Archbishop has been a vocal critic of the Human Rights record of the Museveni regime. Reports indicate that the Government feels that the Archbishop is part of an effort to remove President Museveni from power.

Archbishop Lwanga had a conversation by phone with President Museveni which according to reports was heated but also provides a “way to move forward.” How this concern will play out is anyone’s guess - but it cannot be ignored either.

On May 18th, of this year, a referendum will take place in Burundi. The item on the ballot calls for whether or not current incumbent Nkuruziza to be allowed to extend his term of office by removing the current Constitutionally mandated term limits. Once again, the Catholic Church is the major voice of opposition in this effort. The small but vibrant Anglican Community in the Country has also raised voices of concern regarding the efforts of the President to extend his term in office.

Turning now to the unfolding situation within Rwanda, They had an election recently which saw incumbent Paul Kagame relected to another term. But word is emerging of a series of moves that can be seen as an attempt to consolidate power by his Government and the Church is making its voice heard in dissent.

Reports now indicate that at least 3 pastors have been killed in Ruhengeri. Also over 600 Churches and (moderate) Mosques have been closed down by Government Authorities in recent days according to the snippets of information that have been gradually making their way into the Western media. With the focus on the DRC it’s not hard to see this not being an issue of concern.

There is an interesting side note to the issues within Rwanda. After the 1994 Genocide - that led to some of the the Political Instability that plagues the region to this very day -  President Kagame had some very powerful backers here in the United States.

Due to his stance on HIV/AIDS, President Kagame found himself being the darling of the Evangelical Christians here in the United States. He was able to cultivate a close relationship with one Pastor in particular that being Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California. With the news of the crackdown emerging from Rwanda why hasn’t there been any voices of concern from Pastor Warren and others in the Evangelical Movement?

Sadly it appears that the there is a pattern in play in all four nations. Long entrenched rulers manipulating elections to extend their rule have been called to task by some Christian Leaders and the faithful are paying the price for it. What is ironic is that two of these leaders (Kagame and Museveni) were considered to be some of the New Democrat leaders in Africa back during the days of the Clinton Administration. Now it appears that the leadership in these four nations have determined that their efforts for remaining in office depends on silencing all critical voices including those of the Church. This is indeed a very slippery slope.

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society. © 2007-2018 Author(s) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]


  1. Hi Morgan,

    I don't think that the Catholic Church should meddle in local politics. History showed us that every time they do, the people lose the most (one recent example is Brazil - the Catholic Church was the one pushing for the Military dictatorship in the country).

    Question: with what right do Western countries, and the Catholic Church, try to impose a western model of democracy?


  2. The Catholics priests should not meddle in politics. History showed us what happens when they do.


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