On March 16, Catholic lay faithfuls and clergy will march the streets of Kinshasha and other parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They are pushing to force President Joseph Kabila to organise elections and relinquish power after he failed to do so in 2016 at the end of his second tenure.
The huge rally is also to remember those killed in last month’s protest. In a statement, the Catholic church in Kinshasa says it 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.
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.
An aide to the president confirmed to The Guardian UK that Kabila had no intentions to run for a third term and was not going to influence any candidates in the upcoming elections either.
“This is not a kingdom, where the king appoints an heir. It is a democratic republic,” Lambert Mende, Communications Minister, told the Guardian on Wednesday.
Analysts say Kabila and his close advisers may have decided to commit to elections. A new electoral law has received rapid parliamentary approval, voter registration has been completed without major disruption, and large sums have been allocated to the electoral commission, the Guardian reports.
On February 25 during a mass demonstration, hundreds of people including young Rossy Kadima were killed.
“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 church also urged the public to continue with their civil disobedience by ringing bells in parishes across the country at 9pm every Thursday, with others encouraged to use whistles, car horns and saucepans.
In addition to their campaign of non-violence, the church also undertook to launch “diplomatic overtures” targeting DRC’s partners through the Congolese Diaspora, to ratchet up pressure on Kabila.
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.
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