DRC: ‘The government doesn’t care’

With image of burnt-out car in Butembo-Beni Diocese (© Aid to the Church in Need)
With image of burnt-out car in Butembo-Beni Diocese (© Aid to the Church in Need)

The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is guilty of either weakness or complicity, according to a bishop, who has accused the authorities of inaction in the face of mass killings, the displacement of millions and an Islamist insurgency. 

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Paluku Sikuli Melchisédech of Butembo-Beni said there was no good reason for the government’s apparent indifference to the crisis which is sweeping the country.

He said: “Either it is weakness, or it is complicity.”

The bishop added: “As for the funding of the armed terrorist groups, they are engaged in some very lucrative activities. It is plain to see that Islamisation is not their sole motivation.

“This region abounds with natural resources and they are being exploited completely illegally.

“How else can you explain those coltan refineries that are operating in Rwanda, when the country has none of this resource? Instead this rare mineral is extracted here in our region and exported quite illegally across the other side of the frontier.

“And I see no sign of the Congolese government being concerned.”

The DRC has been hit by a spate of protests, with police and soldiers using teargas and whips to disperse high-school students on Friday (30th April).

Bishop Melchisédech said: “[They are protesting] the completely ineffectual nature of the UN peacekeeping mission but [also] more broadly the continuing ongoing conflicts, which have never been sorted out and which are continuing in the east of the country.”

He added: “The national Congolese Bishops’ Conference calculates that there have been over 6,000 people killed in Beni since 2013 and over 2,000 in Bunia in the year 2020 alone…

“There are also an estimated at least 3 million internal refugees and around 7,500 people who have been kidnapped.”

The bishop described how the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which have been attacking the resource rich east of the country for decades, have also been pursuing a violently Islamist agenda.

He said: “There is a grand scheme to Islamise or expel the local populations.”

The bishop added: “All those who have been kidnapped by these terrorist groups and who have escaped alive from them report the same thing. They were given the choice between death and conversion to Islam. They are given Muslim names to cement their identity.”