Bishop Bernard Kasanda
The international community stands accused of fuelling a humanitarian crisis engulfing the heart of Africa – according to a leading bishop. Bishop Bernard Kasanda of Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) condemned the UN and world leaders, saying a failure to act to stop the advance of rebel militia group M23 is proving disastrous and that apparent favouritism towards neighbouring Rwanda is proving highly divisive.
In an interview Bishop Kasanda criticised the international community for preventing M23 from capturing the eastern city of Goma – a move the UN has said it was powerless to stop.
The bishop told Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, a failure to halt the advance of M23 could result in the rebels capturing Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu, eastern DRC. He said: “The political authorities and the blue helmets [UN] have not stopped repeating ‘Stay calm, have no fear and nothing will happen to you’ and at the present time when the rebels have seized the east of the country there is no sign of a reaction from them. How are we to understand this?”
He went on to hit out at the selection of neighbouring Rwanda as a member of the UN Security Council, given the country’s reportedly violent record. Bishop Kasanda accused the international community’s “complicity” in the crisis in the region, especially the decision for Rwanda to join the UN Security Council. He said such a move was disastrous given that Rwanda is “accused of serious violations [against] the territorial integrity of the DRC”.
The bishop said UN presence in the region over the last 14 years had borne little fruit.
He went on to bemoan the lack of international media interest in the region, especially coverage of the seizure of Goma. He said: “There is complete indifference. I think this is due in large part to a lack of information for the people in the world. Not everything is being told. The information is being filtered and geared to certain purposes.
“But it’s not possible to get an idea of the magnitude of what's happening on the spot – personal dignity is being trodden underfoot and the humiliation of the Congolese people has reached its peak.” He added: “The news that reaches us would lead us to believe that the event is of little importance, but no, that’s not so. The wound is deep and acute… What has been wounded today is the country’s heart.”
Bishop Kasanda stressed that mineral resources and oil in the north-east of the country were the main reasons for the region’s instability. This echoed a declaration made by the Bishops of the DRC on 22 November in response to the capture of Goma:
“The territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo must be protected and respected by all. To this end, we believe that the illegal exploitation of natural resources [which] is the main cause of this war must end. Natural resources should be used and managed in a legal, transparent and thus contribute to the development of all and peace in the DRC.”
DRC president, Joseph Kabila, met representatives of M23 this weekend in Kampala. Sultani Makenga, leader of the M23 militia group, is set to travel to Kampala at invitation of the head of the Ugandan military for talks.