The Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo is mobilizing thousands of citizens to a rally to force President Joseph Kabila to organize elections and relinquish power.
In a statement, the bishops said the Catholic Church in Kinshasa is spearheading what it hopes would be a huge rally on March 16 at ‘Notre Dame du Congo’ Cathedral as a focal point for the struggle against Kabila’s prolonged presidency.
“We have our heroes for democracy. They have a name, a face, an age. They are dead, they are alive. They will continue to demand a rigorous and active citizen participation to avoid falling back into a new dictatorship that will cost human lives,” a statement by the church said.
The bishops were referring to people who died on February 25 during a mass demonstration, including young Rossy Kadima who was killed in Lemba district in Kinshasa.
The bishops also urged the public to continue with their civil disobedience by ringing bells in parishes across the country at 9pm everyThursday, with others encouraged to use whistles, car horns and saucepans.
The huge rally is also to remember those killed in last month’s protest.
According to the new constitution adopted in 2006, Kabila’s presidency was supposed to expire on December 20, 2016, ten years after he was elected for his first five-year term in office.
The electoral authority in DRC had announced in September 2016 that elections would not be held until early 2018.
Since then talks have focused on building a census over the handling of the elections which the constitution disqualifies President Kabila from contesting.
At the end of three huge marches between December 31, 2017 and February 25, 2018, the church claimed a series of “victories” from its civil disobedience aimed at unmasking “a dictatorship hiding behind democracy.”
The church also claimed it has conquered its own fear, transferring it to “our political and military leaders, the police and other security operatives.”
Another victory it is claiming is the moral authority it commands from its congregations, a trait admired by the rest of the world.
The decision to bring further pressure to bear on the government by the church comes after Bishop Fridolin Ambongo was inducted in his position as Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa.
Bishop Ambongo replaces the retired Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo as head of the Catholic Church in Kinshasa.