Congolese religious leaders urge election dispute settlement

By Fredrick Nzwili
Posted Dec 23, 2011

[Ecumenical News International] Church leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling for urgent dialogue over the current election dispute, where two leaders are claiming the presidency.

The disagreement appeared to heighten after police on Dec. 23 blocked opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi from accessing a stadium in Kinshasha where he planned to stage his own swearing-in as president. Three days earlier, Joseph Kabila had been sworn in for a second term, after the Supreme Court declared that he had won with 49 per cent of the vote against Tshisekendi’s 32 percent.

“We want them to come to the negotiating table and agree,” Anglican Archbishop Henri Isingoma Kahwa told ENInews moments after Kabila’s swearing-in on Dec. 20.

The opposition leader said the election was stolen and subsequently planned his own swearing-in at home as police also blocked roads to his house.

Isingoma urged the politicians to show more love for the nation than profits or materialism. He was referring to country’s immense mineral wealth which is often viewed as a leading cause of the crisis.

“That (negotiations) will be greatest joy for people over this Christmas Eve,” said Isingoma in a telephone interview from Kinshasa. He added that dialogue is the “Christmas gift” people are seeking from politicians.

He urged Christians to remain calm and peaceful, since the general feeling was the country should not return to war. Some church sources have reported new refugee arrivals in western Uganda.

“The people had hoped for a new beginning in this election, where jobs … will be created. That’s why the emotions are very high … but we remain very optimistic,” said Isingoma.

In the town of Bukavu, Pastor Josue Bulambo Lembelembe, vice-president of the Church of Christ, suggested power-sharing arrangements. “This would surely save the country and people … It will move the conflict from the streets to the parliament,” he said in an interview.