The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has used his position as a member of the House of Lords – the upper house of Britain’s Parliament – to ask the British government how they are responding to “the escalating violence and suppression of peaceful protests across the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Addressing Government minister the Earl of Courtown yesterday (Tuesday), Archbishop Justin said he had spoken that morning to Archbishop Zacharie Masimango Katanda, Primate of the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo (the Anglican Church of Congo) about the “prevailing anarchy across the country which the central Government in Kinshasa seem unable to control.” He said that the on-going war had created “two million refugees who are now living in conditions of immeasurable suffering and four million casualties over the past 20 years”
He said that the UN peacekeeping and stabilisation operation in Congo – MONUSCO – had seen a “sad weakening of the already overstretched forces” and asked the government to use its influence on UN Security Council’s permanent members “to seek to reinforce those MONUSCO forces and find ways of serving the poorest and most desperate of that region.” And he asked “what practical steps . . . can the Government find to ensure that the commitments to elections are undertaken?”
The minister, Patrick Courtown, said that “the UK remains committed to supporting peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We repeatedly call on the Government to respect their citizens’ constitutional right to peaceful protest.
“Those responsible for the violence towards civilians, including peaceful protesters, must be brought swiftly to justice.” He said that the UK’s Minister for Africa, MP Harriett Baldwin, would be meeting with DRC Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala today (7 March) to “reiterate the importance of fully implementing the political agreement signed on 31 September 2016.”
The minister said that MONUSCO’s mandate will be renewed this month, and added: “We will work with our partners at the United Nations to ensure that the mission’s priority remains the protection of civilians. In order to achieve this, we believe that the key lies in making MONUSCO a more effective force.
“Our ambassador and his team are working with the newly appointed head of MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui, and her team to support MONUSCO’s work in restoring stability to the country. We will also work directly with a number of provincial governors across the country in order to deliver vital humanitarian and development aid. We will focus even more of our development effort at provincial level in the coming months.”
This week, the Bishop of Bogo, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, described the increase in violence in Ituri province of DRC as a “planned insurgency” and said he feared that it would turn into a civil war or a genocide. “Once again we need prayer and advocacy for peace,” he said.
Last month, Christians around the world observed a day of prayer and fasting for peace in DRC and South Sudan, following an invitation from Pope Francis that was supported by senior Anglican leaders, including Archbishop Justin.