A New Normal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Priests, Doctors, and Citizens Kidnapped for Ransom or Killed

A New Normal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Priests, Doctors, and Citizens Kidnapped for Ransom or Killed

On September 20, 2017 Archbishop Nicholas Djomo of the diocese of Tshumbe in the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held a briefing  for the Catholic Task Force for Africa and other groups at the office of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN).  The event was live streamed which allowed other participants to join from different parts of the United States by phone and video conference.

In his remarks, Bishop Djomo called on Catholics and all people of good will to pray for Africa in general and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular. Bishop Djomo’s message highlighted the work of the Church as ambassador of Jesus Christ for peace and prosperity.

He explained how the DRC is facing a serious political, security and humanitarian crisis. In fact, on the political front, the National Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops was called on to mediate and help political actors and civil society representatives find a compromise on the question of elections which includes the elections of a new president. The church successfully brokered an agreement between political actors which was signed on December 31st, 2016.  Unfortunately, because the political actors were not willing to compromise to work on a detailed implementation plan of the agreement, the bishops handed the remaining task over to the president so that they could keep on trying on their own to find a compromise. The disagreements on the way forward remain and the political crisis has deepened.

On the security front, in the eastern and the center of the country namely in the Kasai region, there are internally displaced people in the millions and hundreds of thousands as refugees in the neighboring nation of Angola. Also there are a good number of Congolese in Uganda as well. Given the number of people in need, the humanitarian aid to the displaced is not enough.

The Security Crisis

Here are some examples to prove the case of chronic insecurity in eastern DRC that was mentioned by Bishop Djomo.   On September 16, 2017 in Rutshuru in North Kivu Province, a vehicle full of passengers was ambushed by members of a militia. One person was killed, three were kidnapped and many more were wounded.  The night before in the same locality in a village called Ntamugenga, a Catholic priest named Jean de Dieu Kasereka Kanefu who was on holiday with his family was also kidnapped and taken to an unknown location. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom, but no one knows exactly how much was paid for his release less than 24 hours later.   Fr. Jean de Dieu is a member of the Catholic order of Caracholini priests.

On September 15, 2017, the director of the Mabalako Healthcare System, Doctor Mumbere Kamaliro Germain, was kidnapped after an ambush by armed men near Rwindi and Mabenga towns on the Goma-Butembo road. His kidnapers are asking $10,000. One person was killed during the ambush. The car Doctor Mumbere was in was part of a long convoy which was escorted by the army at the time of his kidnapping.

On the night of September 8, 2017, Father Waswandi, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Butembo in North Kivu province escaped a kidnapping attempt. He jumped from a vehicle they had put him in and was treated for wounds from beatings with metallic bars.

On July 16, 2017, two Catholic Priests, Frs. Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali of Paroisse Notre-Dame des Anges parish in Bunyuka in Butembo Diocese were kidnapped. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom.

On April 14, 2017, the gynecologist of the referral hospital of Uvira, Doctor Gildo Byamungu was killed at his home during the night by armed men.  They took his phone, computer,  and documents.  On January 29, 2016 Doctor Deo Chiza Rumesha, chief surgeon at the referral Hospital of Mweso  in North Kivu was kidnapped and found the next morning dead.

On October 19, 2012 Frs. Edmond Kisughu, Anselme Wasukundi, and  Jean-Pierre Ndulani, three Assumptionist priests, were kidnapped from their rectory in Mbau in the Diocese of Beni, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  To this day they have not returned home. An article published by the Assumptionist priests in 2014, citing the bimonthly paper Les Coulisses and Radio Kivu 1, stated that they are believed to have been killed by the Ugandan rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces & the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda ( ADF-NALU) because they refused to convert to Islam. This combination of two rebel groups is known to force its hostages to convert to Islam, according to documents seized at one of their camps two years ago during a raid  and destroyed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

On a daily basis, Congolese citizens from different corners of the nation live in fear for their lives. Men, women, school children are kidnapped, killed day in and day out, and their stories are known to just a few.  Congolese politicians in the meantime are fighting over political posts which are an easy way to accumulate wealth in a very short time with little effort. The stories above are just a sample of what is going on in the DRC.  Each day and night is full of uncertainty in villages, towns and cities.

These are examples of what Bishop Djomo referenced when he said that there is a security crisis in the DRC. He called on the faithful to pray for the victims; the youth to work for social transformation, and African diasporas, no matter where they are, to free themselves from partisanship from their home countries and embrace a vision that will help their homeland and Africa in general.

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