(PNS) – Political tensions are running high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or DR Congo) as President Joseph Kabila’s second—and, constitutionally, last—term of office came to an end at midnight on December 19 with no clear plans for the election of a successor. Police reportedly set up road checkpoints around the capital, Kinshasa, over the weekend, and government officials have ordered telecom companies to block social media networks. There have been media reports of scores of detentions around the country. The U.S. State Department has issued a call for calm and for respect for human rights, including the right of peaceful assembly.
Earlier demonstrations on September 19, three months before the end of President Kabila’s term and the date by which constitutionally mandated elections should have been declared, resulted in dozens of deaths as protesters clashed with security forces. There are reports that peaceful protest is now being expressed through blowing whistles and banging pots and pans. The Catholic Church has convened talks between the Congolese government and a coalition of opposition groups in an effort to build consensus on a way out of the political impasse, but these negotiations, scheduled to resume on December 21, have not yet produced any agreement.
President Kabila has indicated that he intends to remain the DRC’s Head of State for the foreseeable future. In addition to the long-standing and unresolved deadly militia activity in East Congo, in the last several months the Kasai provinces in central Congo have experienced militia activity that has reportedly left more than 100 dead, displaced many, including children, and generally stressed already fragile community life.
Presbyterian World Mission’s global partners in the DR Congo, the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) and the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK), minister to people of all political persuasions, as does the Protestant umbrella organization, the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), of which both Presbyterian communities are part. These large and dynamic communities of faith are committed to peace and democracy, but must also negotiate a volatile security situation.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has ten mission co-workers based in the DR Congo, primarily in or near the cities of Kinshasa and Kananga, all of whom will be out of the country during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season because of the high potential for grave insecurity.
Please pray for peace and justice for the people of the DR Congo that they will have meaningful opportunities to express effectively their political will; our partners and mission co-workers in the CPC, CPK, and ECC as they work to promote peace and reconciliation in times of uncertainty; the success of the peace talks organized by the Catholic Church; and wisdom, humility, and righteousness to prevail among the DR Congo’s political leaders.
A prayer for the people of the Congo
God of our coming,
God of our going,
God present in times of tranquility, and God who sustains us during uncertain days,
we pray for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We pray for the people, for our partners, for our mission co-workers and for the country’s leaders.
Strengthen the relationships within the country so that peace might prevail even in these days when a scheduled election is neither called nor held; and violence flares as protests crescendo and security forces respond.
Inspire the leaders to ensure that the constitution and the rule of law are upheld, and a transparent process is designed and implemented to hold dialogue that leads to fair and free elections in which the Congolese people express their will.
Bless those who are working to promote peace and justice in a land that you have so richly endowed with resources.
Guide the nations of the world to respond in helpful ways.
God present in times of tranquility, and God who sustains us during uncertain days, may justice flow like living waters and peace prevail in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)