Congo's Stability Hinges on Democracy, Says Prelate

Archbishop of Kisangani Has Faith in Citizens

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ROME, JUNE 18, 2004 ( Congo could be a stable country if it learned to put more trust in its citizens, «a schooled and qualified population,» says Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani.

In fact, the prelate told ZENIT on Tuesday, the time is ripe to give an opportunity to a democratically elected, stable government.

The «military government has shown itself incapable both in the process of pacification as well as the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the nation,» Archbishop Monsengwo said.

Since 1998 the war in Congo has been one of the bloodiest in Africa, costing the lives of 3.5 million people. The disputes are mainly power struggles over the abundant natural resources of the Great Lakes region.

The Congolese population remains hopeful that the conflict will end despite the fact that in some places, such as the district of Ituri and some areas of Kivu, clashes and massacres are not uncommon.

Last July, the United Nations Mission in the Congo received a new one-year mandate from the U.N. Security Council and the authority to use force to protect civilians.

Bukavu, capital of South Kivu, was the scene for a violent clash earlier this month when military dissidents, former rebels of the Congolese Union for Democracy (RCD-Goma) captured the city.

The rebels abandoned the city after a few days, and it is now controlled by the army and U.N. mission. The Vatican agency Fides warned that because the conquest of Bukavu opened a breach within the RCD-Goma, the situation has unleashed a crisis that threatens the 2003 peace agreements in Congo between extremists and the moderates who want to continue with the peace talks.

Archbishop Monsengwo told ZENIT that, after the recent battles in Bukavu between the military and the guerrillas, Congolese students took to the streets by the thousands calling for the liberation of the city and the re-establishment of national integrity.

«This popular demonstration shows that the population is opposed to all attempts to divide the country,» he said. «Moreover, it is further proof that conditions exist to establish a civil government and to prepare for democratic elections.»

Archbishop Monsengwo addressed the European Union on April 19 explaining that if the democratic development of the country is not supported there is a risk of a «recrudescence of potentiality for conflict.»

In discussing the situation in Congo with ZENIT, the archbishop called for a «formal declaration of the end of the war among the belligerents in the Great Lakes region,» as well as an «international conference and the signing of a non-aggression pact, with severe sanctions for those who do not respect it.»

The archbishop of Kisangani proposed the intensification of the struggle against arms trafficking in the region, and an international conference on economics with the participation of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, G8 representatives, multinationals and the Congolese government «to put an end to the criminalization of the economy.»

Finally, the archbishop called for an international solidarity fund for Congo.

In regard to the Church in the country, Archbishop Monsengwo was optimistic and confirmed that «vocations are growing.»

«The Church is regarded with good reason as the institution that struggles most for the respect of rights and reconciliation,» he said.

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