Catholics reject petition for Kinshasa cardinal’s presidential candidacy, suspecting the Government has orchestrated the petition in order to discredit Cardinal Monsengwo by attributing political intentions to him.
Lucie Sarr reports from Congo for La Croix International
Cardinal Monsengwo for president?
This is what a newly formed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — named “Christian Dynamic for Unity and Democracy” (DCUD) — is calling for.
At a press conference on July 20, DCUD, a collective composed of Congolese of different Christian denominations, invited Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa to be a candidate in the presidential elections to be held on Dec. 23.
In an attempt to convince him to stand for president, DCUD launched a petition with a view to gaining support.
However, members of the Lay Committee of Coordination – the Catholic collective that has been organizing the anti-President Kabila protest marches – have expressed reservations about this petition, which has been widely publicized in the Congolese media.
The committee suspects that the government has orchestrated the petition in order to discredit Cardinal Monsengwo by attributing political intentions to him.
“We believe that those in power are seeking to demobilize the Christians who are ready for the protest march planned for Aug. 12,” the committee told La Croix Africa on July 24.
“People of good faith also believe this, even without taking into account the political implications.”
Lay Committee of Coordination announced on July 7 that, if Joseph Kabila presents himself as a candidate for a third presidential mandate, there would be mass protests. These would begin on Sunday Aug. 12, continuing until Tuesday Aug. 14.
For the moment, President Kabila has not yet announced that he will stand in the elections. However, this will be decided before Aug. 8, the final day for the registration of presidential candidates.
So far, the Lay Committee of Coordination has organized three protest marches against Kabila’s abuse of power, on Dec. 31, Jan. 21 and Feb. 25. These resulted in 17 deaths. Kabila became president in 2011. His second and last constitutional mandate ended on Dec. 19, 2016, but Kabila still maintains his grip on power.
Since Dec. 31, 2017, the Catholic priests, bishops, laypeople and church institutions have been in the front line of protest his regime.
During the press conference on July 20 July, DCUD stated that it would like to see Cardinal Monsengwo – if he wins the elections – assume the presidency of the Republic for a transition period of five years, allowing for free, transparent and peaceful elections in 2023.
According to Odette Babandoa, national executive secretary of the hitherto unknown DCUD and president of the Union of Republican Patriots (UPR), a political party, the Catholic Church should “give Cardinal Monsengwo freedom” for the good of the DR Congo and its stability.
The DCUD has, moreover, appealed to opposition leaders, well-known personalities in society and to potential presidential candidates to support Cardinal Monsengwo’s candidacy.
Furthermore, the DCUD said the Lay Committee of Coordination would be more useful to elect Monsengwo as president than “to regularly organize protest marches.”
In November 2017, the citizens’ movement, Peace and Solidarity, organized a voting survey, called the “citizen vote.” At the beginning of 2018, the results of this public survey designated Cardinal Monsengwo as the most appropriate person to “administrate” the lead-up to a political transition.
Monsengwo had been chosen by 3,581,423 voters, ahead of important Congolese personalities such as Denis Mukwege, gynecologist and human rights activist, Pastor André Bokunda, president of the Church of Christ of the Congo, and Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, president of the Episcopal Conference.