Congolese Prelates Says It's a Crucial Year

Hope Elections Bolster Move Toward Peace

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KINSHASA, Congo, FEB. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Congolese bishops insist that “the time has come to be totally committed to the path of democracy.”

Their conviction was expressed in a document issued at the end of a statuary meeting of the members of the episcopate’s Permanent Committee, held here Jan. 31-Feb. 5. The document analyzes the country’s political situation.

In the message — entitled “The Congo Belongs to Us!” — the prelates state that 2005 is a “decisive electoral year for the destiny of the Congolese people.” In fact, political elections are being planned which should mark the conclusion of the long process of transition begun with the peace agreements of 2000 and 2003.

“This transition, which should be the last, is the privileged path to establish a state of law and ensure political stability and lasting prosperity in our country, allowing the population (…) to express, as soon as possible, through the ballot box their choice on Constitutional matters and the persons called to govern,” explain the prelates.

The peace agreements gave life to a government of National Unity in which are represented all political parties and the guerrilla movements operating in the east.

A month ago, discontent over the possible delay of the elections — planned for June — degenerated into confrontations with the police in the Congolese capital, which resulted in several deaths.

According to the prelates, there continue to be disturbing signs in the Congo.

On the social plane, there are “parties without ideology or a coherent and convincing plan of society,” “politicians who do not seem to be concerned about the nation’s higher interests,” “the state’s lack of interest in the area of health and education,” and the “outbreak of the sad phenomenon of ‘street children.'”

In the cultural and religious area, meanwhile, there is a “negation of our traditional cultural values and contempt for human life,” as well as a “loss of the sense of the sacred to the point of committing acts of desecration of churches and of the Blessed Sacrament,” the bishops lament.

In regard to security, “reports from the eastern provinces are worrying, in particular in Kivu North and Ituri, where there continue to be movements of troops” and the people have had to flee from their villages and homes out of fear of a new mortal offensive, they said.

However, in their message the Bishops do mention “some signs of hope in the present social and political situation,” such as “a strong awareness of belonging to one nation and a public opinion won over to the cause of elections and democracy; recourse to mediation in case of conflict; the return of patriotism, and the people’s rejection of war.”

Since 1998, the Congo has been the scene of a war that has cost 3 million lives. The powers of the Great Lakes Region are fighting for control of the immense natural resources of the territory.

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