Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | The pope’s representative in DR Congo said the pontiff will not visit Kinshasa before long delayed elections are held in the strife-torn country, calling it a “predatory state.”
In March, Pope Francis cancelled a planned summer visit to Kinshasa owing to the climate of political violence — though he did meet with President Joseph Kabila at the Vatican a year ago.
Kabila has been due to step down since his mandate expired on 19 December and he is under strong pressure to set an election date.
Pope Francis is “saddened by a certain distance which one perceives (exists) between the political class and its people” Monsignor Luis Mariano Montemayor was quoted Thursday as saying after a five-day visit to the diamond-rich central Kasai region, where UN food agencies warn millions face hunger as a result of conflict.
“The (Congolese) state has a tradition of being a predatory state,” the Argentinian Montemayor added.
The apostolic nuncio’s office was the first to offer a tally of 3,000 dead in unrest in Kasai after a year of clashes between security forces and militia previously loyal to Kamuina Nsapu, a tribal leader slain in August last year.
“Evidently,” the pope is awaiting the organisation of polls before scheduling a visit, his top diplomat for the country said, otherwise an earlier trip might be “exploited” as it could be construed that he backed the “continuation of the illegitimate government.”
The Catholic Church wields influence over the country of 70 million where around half of the population profess the faith and last December mediated an accord between the government and the opposition which would see elections going ahead before year’s end.
But no electoral calendar has been published to date, and there seems no sign of an end to the impasse as Kabila hangs on.
A UN report last month detailed more than 250 “extrajudicial or targeted killings” of Kasai civilians earlier this year, with dozens of children among the victims, while blaming both government troops as well as militia groups on both sides of the conflict.