Congo's Leaders Not Interested in Their People, Say Bishops

Cushy Lifestyles and Widespread Corruption Criticized

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KINSHASA, Congo, FEB. 20, 2004 ( Congo’s national leaders lack interest in their own citizens’ well-being, say the bishops of this central African nation.

At the end of the episcopal conference meeting held Feb. 9-14, a message addressed to the country’s Catholics and to all people of good will acknowledged that progress has been made, albeit slow, in the process of political transition.

However, «we are grieved by the fact that instead of working for social development our national leaders assign social advantages to themselves openly demonstrating disinterest for the people’s well-being,» the bishops wrote, according to the Vatican agency Fides.

«Besides frequent travels and missions abroad, the advantages of which are unclear, leaders allow themselves a lifestyle which is quite the opposite to the precariousness of our public finances,» the prelates observed. «They are doing nothing to stop the corruption afflicting all state services, and they are the only ones who benefit from the calm since the war.»

They added: «In the social field, we are sad to see that announced reforms have not occurred. They have shown themselves to be merely political promises for electoral gains.»

«From the beginning the transition revealed the lack of qualification of certain people who gained power through the logic of consensus,» the bishop wrote. «In some institutions we see hesitation and insecurity which threaten to drag the country to ruin.»

«We see power managed with inexpert hands and this will cost our republic a high price,» they warned. Too often, «the exercise of public functions has the semblance of a political campaign.»

The bishops mentioned numerous recent accidents on railways, rivers, roads, and in the air, and denounced the superficiality with which the leaders responded. Their indifference reveals a profound crisis with regard to the significance of human life and its inviolability, the bishops said.

Another sign of Congo’s moral crisis is the lack of security, which leaves the people at the mercy of bandits.

The conflict that lacerated Congo since 1998 has cost close to 3 million lives. Powers in the Great Lakes region are in dispute over control of the territory’s immense natural resources.

Congo has been in a state of transition since July 17, when a national unity government was installed on the basis of an agreement reached in South Africa last April. The main task of the interim government is to prepare for elections in 2005.

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