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Monument Dedicated to Congolese Prelate Slain in ’96

Death of Bukavu Archbishop Shrouded in Mystery

BUKAVU, Congo, NOV. 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- An air of mystery still hangs over the 1996 death of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa Mwene Ngabo, a decade after his passing.

Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered to remember the 70-year-old prelate, who died Oct. 29, 1996, during a military attack on the city. The attack came at the start of the conflict that would darken the region for years.

“On the 10th anniversary of the murder of Monsignor Christophe Munzihirwa, the people of this province, of this country and of the whole of Africa have the right to know the author and weapon of the crime,” wrote the local Justice and Peace Commission.

The Missionary Service News Agency reported that a monument was dedicated last Saturday in memory of this archbishop “who shed his blood like Christ for the voiceless,” wrote the commission.

A native of Kabare, where he was born in 1926, he entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest at 32. He received episcopal ordination at 60.

He was appointed to head the Archdiocese of Bukavu on March 14, 1995; he died just over a year and a half later.

When he arrived in Bukavu, capital of Kivu South, in the east of the country, the Rwandan genocide had been carried out on the other side of the border.

At a time of particular gravity for the Great Lakes Region, Archbishop Munzihirwa often raised his voice in defense of the weak, such as the Rwandan fugitives, and in defense of democracy.

The ceremony last Saturday drew thousands of people who took part in a march and celebration in the cathedral for the prelate.

It is estimated than more than 4 million people died in Congo, the majority from hunger and illness, due to the 1998-2003 war in the region.

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