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DR Congo. Bishop Ambongo: “We must speak out”

Several African presidents have attempted to change the constitution to stay in power. It is important to enforce transparency and accountability. The role of the Church in Africa. We talked with Monsignor Fridolin Ambongo, President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the DR Congo.

Why is limiting presidential mandates, imperative in Africa nowadays?
Times and people have changed. Many political leaders have not realized yet that African people cannot be manipulated anymore by gifts or corruption. Their attitude and mentality have evolved as demonstrated by the fall of the regime of Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso at the end of October 2014, or by the popular uprisings in Kinshasa, Goma, Bukavu, by the situation in Congo Brazzaville and in Burundi recently. People have overcome their fears and want to be in charge of their destiny. Now they are aware of what is important for them and are ready to fight for it. And this is just the beginning.

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Do you think that popular unrest will erupt also in other countries?
Definitely it will! This awareness, these changes, or even better, this revolution will inevitably spread to Togo, Cameroon, Chad, Zimbabwe … I am convinced that the days of African regimes are numbered.

How should the change in Africa be?
Our mission is to achieve two goals, one political – the democratization process in Africa – and the other economic – the adoption by the European Union of a legislation on the model of the Dodd Frank Act (a US legislation that aims to prevent significant financial crisis by creating new financial regulatory processes that enforce transparency and accountability), in order to guarantee traceability and transparency in the exploitation of natural resources in Africa. We are convinced that hidden and illegal exploitation of our resources is financed by dictatorship and clientelism. If democracy and transparency are achieved, Africa will have a better future.

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What should or could be the role of the Church in this process?
The Church accompanies people in their efforts to obtain greater humanity and dignity. Human beings are entitled to be treated as worthy of respect and concern. Man is created in the image and likeness of God, but, at the current time, we can see many human beings deprived of dignity. The Church is committed to protecting people. It operates like the sentinel of a city who stays awake to raise the alarm when danger threatens the serenity of its inhabitants. The Church in the DRC informs people through civic and education programs. And the awakening which we are currently experiencing is the result of all these efforts. Needless to say that, operating in certain realities, is not always easy and without problems.

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What do you think about the current situation in the DRC?
The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced days of turmoil and deadly protests over a draft law that would enable President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power. The demonstrators wanted to block the parliament from adopting a new electoral law which would have required that a national census be held before elections. The opposition said the plan amounted to a ‘constitutional coup’ by Mr Kabila, as it would have taken even five or six years, for a census to be conducted in DR Congo, which has very little infrastructure. Now, we wonder what else the regime could come up with, in order to stay in power. We are worried about it. Therefore, we ask people to remain vigilant.

Has Pope Francis’s election strengthened the commitment of the church in Africa on social issues?

Pope Francis’ message is clear. He gives special attention to the concept of the dignity of the human person. The Pope takes a clear stand for the poor, the neglected, the oppressed, because they are the ones who have lost their dignity in our societies nowadays.
The majority of African people are in such a miserable situation that the Church, as a mother, must support them in their quest for dignity and respectability. We cannot keep quiet, and must speak out against anything that might hinder the promotion of human dignity. (F.S)

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