KINSHASA, Congo, JULY 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- An “Inter-Congolese Dialogue” session held this year in South Africa has not yet led to a peace accord, this nation’s bishops say.
Congo’s bishops, who met here for their plenary assembly earlier this month, issued a message aimed at helping this tormented nation overcome its current political turmoil.
The document, published Friday by the Misna missionary information service, begins with an evaluation of the “Inter-Congolese Dialogue,” held in Sun City, South Africa, from Feb. 25 to April 19.
The bishops noted that the dialogue was an occasion for opposing sides to meet, in a search for peace. But the general situation in Congo since then has not signaled a peaceful start to a transition period.
“The general accord needed by the nation for a lasting peace has still not been signed,” the bishops said in their message.
For this reason, the message calls on Congolese in this difficult phase to “abandon all personal considerations and favor the common good.”
The Congolese bishops’ conference indicated 10 essential steps for the survival of ex-Zaire, beginning with the transition Constitution, which must serve the needs of all.
The prelates said a constitutional act is needed to end the war, stimulate national reconciliation, and temporarily organize civil powers, in view of general elections. A vote “will have to be held in maximum transparency and respect of democratic liberty,” they said.
The designation of those who will guide the transition institutions must also be carried out, the bishops say. In regard to the length of the transition, the prelates reminded the people that Congo has in reality been “in transition for 12 years. We cannot afford to prolong this period unnecessarily. If all sides place the well-being of the nation above all else, we believe that two years from now will be sufficient.”
For the reinforcement of democracy, the bishops’ conference also proposed the institution of a council that would guarantee an objective and impartial control over the national media.
The bishops also say that the population rejects the illegal occupation of its nation and the exploitation of its natural resources by foreigners.
“We must reaffirm with determination that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo are not negotiable,” the bishops stressed. They called for “the immediate retreat of foreign troops from Congolese territory and the interposition of U.N. peace forces along the borders with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.”
During the transition period, Congolese experts, in collaboration with international groups, should come up with suitable strategies for the promotion of economic development in the nation and all provinces, the bishops insisted.
The bishops also called for an international peace conference for the Central African region, and they appealed to the world community for “just assistance” and “real partnership” in the promotion of peace and the safeguarding of the national Congolese territory.
They added: “Our people need instruments for development, much more than tanks and war instruments.”