On Sunday, tens of thousands of Christians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took to the streets to protest violence in eastern regions, while church leaders accused the international community of hypocrisy over Rwanda’s alleged role in the fighting. The demonstrations took place across the country. Churchgoers in Congo’s capital city of Kinshasa and other major cities responded to a call from the Conference of Catholic Bishops to demonstrate against the conflict with the M23 rebel group after the conclusion of Sunday services. Congo blames Rwanda for providing support for the M23 rebel group.
According to Blaise Emmanuel, vicar at St. Elizabeth’s church, who along with other priests led a procession in Montgafula, one of the poorest towns in Kinshasa, “We say no to war, no to a divided Congo,” Since an upsurge in combat in recent months between state troops and M23, the mass rallies have been the most important since the beginning of the unrest. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that about 390,000 people have been forced to leave their homes because of the violence.
Protesters in Kinshasa chanted and waved banners that said, “No to Balkanization, no to the Hypocrisy of the International Community” during their march. “The DRC is not up for grabs at this time.” Since many years ago, many people in Congo have blamed the West for not doing more to hold Rwanda accountable for the purported role it played in fanning instability in the east.
At the end of November, the European Parliament issued an appeal to Rwanda, urging the country to refrain from providing support to the M23 rebels. But just the week before, the European Commission was criticized in the Congo for its decision to give 21 million dollars and 20 million euros to Rwandan troops who are helping fight against insurgents in Mozambique.
At the end of the march in Montgafula, the protesters sang the national anthem, and a priest carrying the Congolese flag stood on a chair to speak to the crowd. According to Father Theophile Landu, who was speaking in reference to Rwanda, “It is the small country that is battling us.” The United States of America and the European Union are responsible for it. We warn them that they need to put an end to their hypocrisy.
In August, Antony Blinken, who is the Secretary of State for the United States, said that UN experts’ claims that Rwanda was still helping the M23 were “reliable.” The Rwandan government has expressed disagreement with the conclusions. In other places, anti-Western views were expressed during demonstrations that included high-profile participants such as the chairman of the Senate, many ministers, and politicians from both the ruling party and the opposition.
Late in the month of November, Congo and Rwanda participated in talks with the goal of finding a resolution to the conflict. The East African Community (EAC), which is made up of seven countries, is leading other talks right now.