The Catholic Church and the power of the State in Congo: How Archbishop Monsengwo never forgave Laurent Désiré Kabila for overthrowing Mobutu
Two questions to Mgr Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Catholic Archbishop of Kisangani.
Archbishop Monsengwo has recently denounced “certain irregularities” in the electoral process now on course in Congo and threatened that the Catholic Church will not recognise the electoral results if those irregularities were not corrected before hand.
During his last visit to London, London-based Congolese journalist Antoine Roger Lokongo, then working for the weekly The Catholic Herald, interviewed Archbishop Monsengwo on the subjects of the war in Congo and the Sovereign National Conference which he presided over in the 1990s. This is what he had to say:
1. ARL: Your Excellency, what is your personal position on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo? I think our readers here in Europe would like to know who is fighting who? Why are they fighting? Are there some foreign powers pulling the strings behind this war? Whose interests are being served?
I gave already many times my position on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This war is useless because it does not serve any problem there be it in Congo, in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Burundi and in the Great Lakes Region. This is the first statement.
The second one is this: The real, the original cause of the war in Congo was the fact that the international community and in a certain part also, the national community, accepted that the power could be taken by force in 1997 [by Laurent Désiré Kabila]. Since you take the power by force, your legitimacy is the force. It means, you are not sure that somebody else cannot set you down by force. This is the reason why we said since the beginning, the only solution to this crisis in Congo is a national consensus, ion which the Congolese together, the government, the armed opposition, the non-armed opposition, the pacific opposition and then, the civil society or “les forces vives” as we say in Congo, would come together, analyse the causes of the war and find a consensual agreement on the institutions. It means on the president, consensual president, a consensual parliament of transition, a consensual government of large union in the country.
When we have these institutions, the country will be ruled; and if the country is ruled, we will be able to examine according to the national law and according to the international law, first of all, our internal problems inside the country, the ex-Far, the Interahamwe… all the internal problems government has to be faced with will be examined and then we will try to find a solution according to the institutions; and we also in the joint commission by the diplomatic way, examine all the problems with our neighbouring countries. If we don’t follow these consensual solutions, of course, the government which is imposed by force will not be stable because it will be contested by a part of the population And if the government is contested, then you will have this part of the population, this percentage of the population which contests people – because they consider the government as not legitimate – they will appeal to all the forces external and internal to make a revolution, to make a rebellion.
The only way is to go together. There is no political problem which cannot be solved without dialogue and without consensus. And when we will have this consensus, we will prepare for the elections, and then people will elect a government, and then thanks to the elections, the government will have a legitimacy which cannot be contested because the power comes from the population.
Archbishop Monsengwo, President Laurent Désiré Kabila said that the “Conférence Nationale Souveraine” (The Sovreign National Conference) was a flop, a distraction, a “mise en scène” ( a scene make up) aimed at prolonging Mobutu’s dictatorship and the misery of the people. That is why he launched a revolution. Having been the President of the CNS yourself, do you agree that it was a failure, that it led the country nowhere, mainly because you mishandled it, if not what did it achieve?
Naturally, President Laurent Désiré Kabila, as any other person as well as all the Congolese have the right to give their own evaluation over the Sovereign National Conference. I don’t think the SNC did a useless job. I think, on the contrary that if President Laurent Désiré Kabila and the group which came to overthrow Mobutu integrated themselves within the national consensus which existed at that time, and followed the rules of the games as laid out by the Sovereign National Conference, the country would not be where it is today. There is no evidence which shows that the actual situation of the country is better than it was during the time of the SNC. That is one.
Two. To say that the SNC was at Mobutu’s service, I don’t know if such a statement is in itself contradicted by the very texts put in place by the SNC
If the SNC was at Mobutu’s service, President Mobutu would not have seen his powers reduced constitutionally, that is to say, most of the powers that he held and which allowed him to run the country as he pleased. However, it was exactly during the year 1993-1994 when President Mobutu was diplomatically isolated on account of the decisions taken by the SNC and their management. Equally in 1995, President Mobutu did not have, I would say, the totality of his powers that he used to enjoy either. It is true that he did not always respect the Constitution, but the Constitution of the SNC did curtail and reduce Mobutu’s powers enormously. And if the political class were consistent, things would have advanced for the better. But to learn democracy and to apply its principles. That is why you can understand the difficulties that some political figures had to implement the decisions of the Sovereign National Conference.
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