Bishops’ appeal a few weeks before Pope Francis' visit:
"Stop the war in North Kivu"
Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "The nightmare of war has been going on for too long. We ask the belligerents to return to reason", exhort the Bishops of CENCO (National Episcopal Conference of the Congo), in a statement in which they express their concern about "the deterioration of the security conditions in the province of North Kivu (in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)", in particular in the territories of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, following the intensification of fighting between the FARDC (Armed Forces Congolese) and the M23 rebels, who are causing many losses of human lives on both sides.
The M23 is a rebel group that resumed hostilities in 2021 after having laid down their arms in December 2013. The resumption of the M23 offensive is increasing tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, accused by Kinshasa of supporting the Congolese rebels. In turn, Kigali accuses the DRC of providing aid to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLRDLR), a Rwandan rebel group based in North Kivu. Tensions between the two countries increased when the Rwandan government denounced the kidnapping of two soldiers by the FDLR, accusing Kinshasa of being complicit in the kidnapping. Thanks to the mediation of Angola, the two soldiers, who had apparently been captured by the regular Congolese army, were released. In the statement sent to Agenzia Fides, CENCO underlines how instability in North Kivu is fueling regional tensions, stating that it is "astonished because the fighting occurs a few weeks after the Nairobi meetings, in which the Heads of State of the Great Lakes region and the armed groups pledged to unite their efforts to establish peace in the east of the DRC". "The peoples of the Great Lakes region aspire to lasting peace through better cooperation from which future generations can benefit," the bishops say. "All the more so -they add- as the Congolese people are mobilizing to receive the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in July, who comes as an architect of peace and an apostle of reconciliation. It is neither correct nor honorable to try to deny this people this moment of happiness that will be a source of blessing for the entire DRC", they conclude.