(Vatican Radio) The state of democracy for the Great Lakes region of Africa will face several tests in 2016.
“This is a moment over really even the next six or eight weeks where you could argue that ten or twenty years of very, very hard fought progress towards peace, stability, and justice across the Great Lakes is at risk, but there is also opportunities to make significant steps forward.” said Thomas Perriello, the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Listen to the Vatican Viewpoint with Part 1 of the interview with Thomas Perriello:
The Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to have a presidential election in November, and current President Joseph Kabila is ineligible to run.
“DRC has the chance this year to witness its first peaceful democratic transition of power in its history, something that is deeply supported by the people of Congo,” Perriello told Vatican Radio.
Listen to the Vatican Viewpoint with Part 2 of the interview with Thomas Perriello:
Meanwhile, Burundi is facing a crisis after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed election for a third term in 2015, despite a two-term limit in the nation’s constitution. The country has seen terrible incidents of political violence, which has sent nearly 250 thousand refugees fleeing into neighboring countries.
“Burundi, while it has certainly been in a terrible crisis in the last six months, we have seen new life breathed into a regional peace process, that could still be built on the foundations of ten or fifteen years of peaceful efforts,” Perriello said.
On Wednesday, Perriello visited with high-level Vatican officials before departing for Africa for an extended visit which will include Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kigali, Rwanda; Bukavu, Goma, and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Bujumbura, Burundi; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
His meetings in the Vatican came just two days after Pope Francis called for “dialogue and reconciliation aimed at consolidating the common good” in the two countries during his Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
“In both countries, as well as throughout the region, the Catholic Church has a huge role to play in being a prophetic voice for human rights and the rule of law, as well as a significant source of direct humanitarian support – on food, on education, and other matters – in regions where we continue to see great human fragility,” Perriello said.
Perriello said many Catholic leaders have shown “great courage” throughout the region in protecting their nations’ constitutions, and have walked the line between being “prophetic and not partisan.”