(Vatican Radio) The United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa said the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has “made very clear that they will condemn efforts by the opposition that appear to be tilting towards violence.”
Tom Perriello told Vatican Radio the Church is seen as a “voice for the national interest” in the ongoing unrest following the announcement of the postponement of elections.
Listen to the interview with Tom Perriello:
President Joseph Kabila’s term of office is supposed to end in December, but the nation’s electoral commission announced last month that scheduled elections could not be held in November. The announcement led to protests which left several people dead.
The United Nations envoy for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Maman Sidikou, on Tuesday told the UN Security Council the country is at "extreme risk" of descending into widespread violence, and the” scope of the threats dramatically outstrip the … capabilities" of the 18,000-strong peacekeeping force in the country.
Perriello is in Rome to meet with officials about the Congo after visiting the country last month, and he said the Catholic Church is trying to help to keep the peace.
The Catholic Church is quite possibly the most respected institution in the country, and one with the largest reach into communities really across the entire country,” Perriello said.
“The bishops made a difficult decision to be part of this recent dialogue process under African Union auspices which was seen quite controversially by the Congolese people,” – the US envoy told Vatican Radio – “We appreciated the bishops played a role there, and I think unlike some of the political actors, who the Congolese people fear are more looking out for themselves than necessarily the country as a whole, there was a sense that the bishops were a voice for the national interest, and really were looking for trying to make it a success, but also showed that they needed to walk away when certain indications were clear that this was not a process headed towards a credible result.”
Perriello agreed with his United Nations counterpart that the situation in the country is volatile, and the opposition feels strongly that Kabila should leave office in December; but he said the Catholic bishops are urging any protests be peaceful.
“They have also pushed the opposition very hard to keep a non-violent stance,” he said.