Friday, January 27, 2012

U.S. Congressional Hearing on Congo, Thursday, February 2, 2012



If you live in the following states - Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Illinois, Delaware, New Mexico, Tennessee, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, Wyoming, and Utah - we need your support in calling your senators and posting info on their facebook page about the situation in the Congo.

Here is a script:

Hello, my name is ___________. I am a constituent of Congressman/Congresswoman ___________. I am calling in regard to the Hearing on Thursday February 2 on Congo's elections that Africa Subcommittee will be hosting. I want to thank Congress for holding this hearing.

President Obama said in his State of The Union address "We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings - men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty."

It is US policy to support democracy in the Congo according to section 102 (1) of Public Law 109-456 yet the United States has not fulfilled this law or adhered to the country's democratic principles when it comes to its Congo policy.

In concert with U.S. law and stated U.S. policy, we urgently request the US government change the manner in which it is engaged in the Congo from one that supports strongmen to one that supports strong institutions and democracy by doing the following:

1. Respect the will of the people as expressed at the polls on November 28th by supporting efforts by the Catholic Church and other Civil Society organizations to arrive at the truth of the polls;

2. Cease recognition of the Kabila regime until the truth of the November 28th polls are determined;

3. Denounce the violence against civilians as documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other local NGOs.

Thank you

Note: Get as many of your family, friends, and people in your network to call these Congressmen and women especially if they live in the states listed above. Don't forget to leave comment on their facebook walls and tweet them.

Here is the contact info of the House Members on the committee hosting the hearing on February 2nd. Remember to ask your member of Congress to assure that a Congolese representative is invited to testify about his/her country.

Congressional Contacts:

Congressman Chris H. Smith - Republican
New Jersey's 4th Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-3765

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry - Republican
Nebraska's 1st Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-4806

Congressman Tom Marino - Republican
Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District
DC Office: 202-225-3731

Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle - Republican
New York's 25th Congressional District
DC Office: 202-225-3701

Congressman Robert Turner - Republican
New York's 9th Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-6616

Congressman Donald M. Payne - Democrat
New Jersey's 10th Congressional District (counties: Essex, Hudson, Union)
DC office: 202-225-3436

Algene Sajery Yvette Clarke - Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights
New York 11th Congressional District
DC Office: 202-225-6231

Congresswoman Karen Bass - Democrat
California 33rd Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-7084

Congressman Russ Carnahan - Democrat
Missouri's 3rd Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-2671

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Monday, January 16, 2012


Version Francaise!
The Congolese is thirsty for Justice and Peace.

Courage and Truth (see. II Corinthians 7, 14)

Message of the extraordinary plenary assembly of the CENCO to the Catholics and to the Congolese people.

1. May God bless the people of the Congo. May God be good and full of grace. May God manifest his goodness and grant the Congolese people with peace ! (see. Numbers 6, 24-26).

2.We, the Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops, members of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) have come together in an extraordinary plenary session in Kinshasa from January 9 to 11, 2012, and we have analyzed the observation report conducted by our Church regarding the elections.
In a spirit of prayer and faith in the future of our country, we address this message to the Catholics and to the Congolese people in order to learn the lessons from the current electoral process.

Achievements of the election process
3.We welcome the determination, maturity and civism of our people, who, in November 2011 went to the polls in difficult conditions in order to designate sovereign rulers. We congratulate our government for being able to largely finance the elections, which proves that we can succeed in building our country if we put resources and goodwill.

We acknowledge the logistical efforts of the INEC to deploy electoral material despite the challenges and the poor infrastructures of our vast country. We also congratulate all the electoral observers and witnesses who have made many sacrifices to perform their duty.

4. However, the result of this work has disappointed many Congolese. In our message called “Election year: what should we do?” (Ac 2, 37) published on February 25,, 2011, we said we wanted the elections to be transparent, truthful and peaceful , so that Congo can be part of the respectable and dignified nations of the world. [1]. In the message of December 3rd, 2011, the CENCO reaffirmed that our goal was not to publish the results and that its observation mission encouraged the Congolese people, the political actors, and the INEC to rely on the election results. On December 8, 2011, the General Secretariat of the CENCO highlighted the positive aspects of the election process, as well as its serious irregularities and weaknesses. This is why, on December 12, 2011, the Cardinal Archbishop of Kinshasa issued a statement denouncing the non-conformity to truth and justice of the provisional results released by the INEC.

5. Today, it is clear that, according to the final report of the Election Observation Mission of the CENCO and testimonies gathered by the various dioceses and other sources, that the electoral process took place in a chaotic environment. There are many failures, cases of proven and planned fraud, fatal incidents, deaths, and a climate of terror in order to force people to fill the ballot boxes. There is more. What is now happening in the compilation of the legislative election results is unacceptable. It is a shame for our country.

6. We believe the election process was marked by serious flaws that question the credibility of the election results. We call upon the organizers to demonstrate courage, honesty and accept the consequences. We believe recognizing one’s own mistake is a sign of greatness. However, if politicians take the risk of governing the country by challenge, the internal tensions that are controllable on the short term will result in a serious and inextricable crisis. We encourage an inclusive approaches and dialogue in order to serve the best interests of the Congolese nation. It is time for courage and truth.

Our prophetic mission
7. We remain faithful to our mission of watcher for the people of God (see. Ez 3, 17), we see several challenges to overcome in order to establish the rule of law in the DR Congo, and for the well being of the Congolese people. However, we do not intend to fight a political battle for the creation of a fair society. We do not plead for a political party either. As Pope Benoit XVI said “the Church cannot and shall not replace the State, but the Church cannot and shall not stay away from the fight for justice. This is why, “in our prophetic mission, each time the people asks the Church for help, the Church wants to be ready to give hope (see. 1P 3, 15), because a new day has come (Ap 22, 5) [3]. We borrow words from Pope Benoit XVI : “Because of the Christ and by loyalty to his life lessons, our Church feels that it has to be present where people are suffering and has to break the silence about the persecuted innocents »[4].

8. Therefore, we will not stop denouncing situations that jeopardize the creation of a democratic state. You do not build the rule of law in a culture of fraud, lies, terror, militarism and flagrant violation of the freedom of expression. If democracy is a power of the people, by the people and for the people, the people must be respected. In the current situation, the Congolese people are being hurt and feel extremely frustrated. They are the powerless witnesses of a process that does not reflect their will and looks more like an arrangement between political actors.

Peace in the Truth
9. «The Church has a duty of truth to accomplish, a vital mission, it is a favor made to the liberating truth » [5]. The election process will consolidate a democratic culture and the pacification of the country. We want peace. The peace we want shall not exist without truth, justice and respect for the people. It is in the name of peace that the Church encourages Congolese leaders to promote justice and show their love for the truth. What will be the values of our youth if the only thing they know is the anti-value system?

Attack on the integrity and dignity of people
10. In this context, we condemn the public campaign orchestrated by the Cardinal. All these insults have shocked the Catholics and many others. This shows the emergence of a single thought which condemns all contradictory opinions. We condemn all the insults and threats against the president of the CENCO, because democratic debates don’t allow personal attacks.

11. We cannot remain silent in front of all these abuses: physical threats, human rights violations, kidnappings, intimidations, and the confiscation of public means of communication by a political family. Because of their political opinion, bishops, clergy and peaceful citizens are still the victims of these threats.

12. We encourage the Catholics and the Congolese people as a whole not to resort to violence, because violence breeds violence. It provokes destruction and misery. We call upon the Congolese Diaspora, those who share our concern for a better Congo, and those we know make great sacrifices to help the Congolese living in Congo, not to resort to violence and find peaceful means in order to contribute to the construction of a truly democratic Congo. As our divine Master did, we must respond to violence with love. (see. Mt 5, 43-44).

13. We recommend:
- The Congolese people must not become pessimistic, hopeless, violent, tribal and xenophobic. The Congolese people must come together around the Christian and democratic values of justice and truth, they must grow together in the awareness of their national unity and sovereign power and use it in legality and vigilance;

- The politicians must prove that they are mature actors that have the capacity to organize, take their responsibilities, improve the political debate by stopping all injures , lies and by expressing their deep concern for the civism and well being of the population;

- The current INEC team must have the courage to question its own actions. They must absolutely correct the serious mistakes that have broken the trust the Congolese population had put in them. They shall otherwise resign.

- The Parliament must urgently review the composition of the INEC which is no longer trusted by the population. The Parliament shall also include civil society representatives for more independence and abstain from amending articles of the Constitution;

- The government shall learn the lessons from this election debacle and invest the adequate material for the elections and use these resources on time for future elections. The government shall also abstain from using public funds for personal gain and realize that the people want change.

- The National Police and the Armed forces must be professional, protect the population and most importantly refuse to obey unfair orders.

- The Supreme Court must be independent and conscious when making decisions in electoral disputes. The credibility of the judicial power lies in it.

- The international community shall primarily take into consideration the interest of the Congolese people, not be complaisant, support the quest for justice, peace and respect the self-determination of the Congolese people.

14. Our country is currently going through times of uncertainty and anguish. Our faith in God and our trust in humanity, which was created in the image of God, convince us that these feelings can be overcome if there is a change in the hearts, the mentality and the actions. It is necessary to love the country and to abandon selfish interests in order to find ways to bring about peace in the DR Congo. The peace we want can only be found in justice and love for the truth. The peace that is granted without justice is only ephemeral and illusory. The justice of men, if it not the fruit of reconciliation, truth and love remains uncompleted. It is love, justice and truth that trace the paths of the real justice and peace we want for the DR Congo.

15. May the prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace and Notre-Dame of Congo, whose heart is always oriented towards the will of God, support any conversion, consolidate all initiatives for reconciliation, dialogue and strengthen all efforts for a Congo that is thirsty for justice and peace.

Kinshasa, January, 11, 2012
[1] Cf. CENCO, Election Year: What should we do ? (Ac 2,37), n° 23.
[2] Benoît XVI, Lettre encyclique Deus caritas est, n° 28.
[3] Benoît XVI, Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Africae munus, n° 30.
[4] Benoît XVI, Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Africae munus, n° 30.
[5] Benoît XVI, Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Africae munus, n° 22

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Martyrs Day

Today, January 4th 2012, marks the 53rd anniversary of the courageous uprising of young Congolese in Kinshasa, then Leopoldville, to demand an end of Belgian colonialism. As the people took to the streets, several hundred died as they were shot with live fire by Belgian security forces though this was a peaceful march. Nine days later the King of Belgium announced that in due time Belgium would grant Congo full independence. The courageous stance by that generation of Congolese served as a key catalyst for Congo’s independence in 1960. This day is known as the Day of the Martyrs of Independence.

As we remember the courageous fighters of that time, we should know that Congolese today inside and outside are organizing to regain control of their country. From Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, Brussels to Seoul, London to Washington, Congolese have risen with one voice demanding that their voice be heard and their will be respected in spite of the fraudulent attempt to steal the November elections.

With this awakening, the youth of the Congo are more than determined to resist the hijacking of the future of their country. They aim to fulfill their founding mothers' fathers' prophecy that they will write their own history. A grassroots movement throughout the Congo and outside has begun with one word... INGETA... a word in Kikongo meaning "So be it." Young Congolese have come together to develop a platform connecting them worldwide and celebrating the martyrs of their country.

On this day, we hope you join the Congolese in their pursuit of true independence... and that day will come sooner than one might think.

Click here (Francais) to learn more about Ingeta!

More information on Martyrs Day:

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Congo: Elections, Democracy and The Diaspora Awakening

The November 28th Presidential and legislative elections were fraught with tremendous irregularities and widespread charges of fraud. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI in French) announced on December 8th that Joseph Kabila won the elections with 49 percent of the vote and long-time opposition, Etienne Tshisekedi garnered 32 percent.

The Supreme Court validated the results published by CENI and dismissed a challenge to the results by the opposition, led by presidential candidate Vital Kamerhe. The opposition categorically rejected the results as fraudulent. Nonetheless, Joseph Kabila was sworn into office on Tuesday, December 20th, where only one head of state (Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) attended although 12 other African heads of states were expected to attend. Ambassadors from foreign nations, including the United States, were present for Kabila's swearing-in.

Rejecting the results, Etienne Tshisekedi announced that he would have his own swearing-in among the people at the 80,000 capacity Martyrs Stadium on Friday, December 23rd. Being under virtual house arrest, Tshisekedi was confined to his residence by the Kabila regime. The government also prevented the population from entering the stadium with a heavy show of force from the police, armed forces, and presidential guard. The regime blocked routes leading to the stadium with heavy tanks and artillery. Instead of a swearing-in at the stadium in front of a large audience, Etienne Tshisekedi had to perform the ceremony at home in his garden. In addition to domestic pressure, the government is experiencing intense international pressure; the European Union has said it will re-evaluate its cooperation with the DRC and make judgments based on how the political crisis unfolds and Mme Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund said she is following the situation in the Congo with a particular focus on the rule of law and the political climate, especially the pre and post-electoral periods.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is at a critical juncture in its tenuous march towards peace and stability. The Kabila regime suffers from a severe crisis of legitimacy and the future of the democratic project is in the balance. Stability will be fleeting without legitimacy. What is at stake in the Congo is not merely an election but respect for the will of a people and the future of democracy in the heart of Africa.

The Carter Center said the Presidential results announced by the CENI "lacked credibility," while the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, said that the results announced by the CENI reflects "neither the truth nor justice." The European Union chimed in, noting that the process evinced a lack of transparency, with its missing polling stations and lost results totaling an estimated 1.6 million votes. South Africa noted that the elections were"generally OK," while the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) found little wrong with the elections. Nonetheless, the CENI has ceased the counting of the legislative results and invited an international technical team from the United States and England to help with the counting of the legislative results, which are expected to be announced by January 13th - a constitutional deadline that will be difficult to meet.

Congolese in the diaspora have responded with universal outrage and have taken to the streets throughout the globe. Demonstrations have occurred in London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Washington and numerous other cities around the world. The central demand of the demonstrations is that the will of the Congolese people be respected. Click here to see videos of Congolese demonstrations!

Due to greater access to information combined with the freedom to express themselves, Congolese in the Diaspora have voiced the frustrations and concerns of their countrymen and women. The Congolese population inside the country has been under a military clamp-down with tanks in the streets, omnipresent security forces, SMS shut down (a major tool of communication for Congolese), and opposition television shuttered. Moreover, the Kabila regime has already demonstrated a willingness to use its armed and security forces to fire on unarmed civilians (see Human Rights Watch Report) and round-up and disappear civilians (see Amnesty International and Voix Sans Voix Statement).

The best option to rescue the country from a descent into a deeper crisis is the activation of a national mediation mechanism supported by the international community (Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), European Union, United Nations and United States). However, political will on the part of the political class to prioritize the people's interests over partisan interests is a necessary prerequisite for this option to be successful.

Continue to take action and support Congo's pursuit of democracy:
"Our offices have gotten quite a bit of input from the Congolese Community in the US for which we are grateful." U.S. Senator Christopher Coons

1. Contact key world leaders and demand that they refrain from recognizing Joseph Kabila as President of the DRC.
2. Demand that the technical team from the United States and England assess both the legislative and presidential results.
3. Participate in teach-ins to learn about what is at stake in the Congo and the nature of Congo's democratic movement. (Click here for comprehensive list of actions!)

On January 17, 2012, the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Friends of the Congo and its allies will join in solidarity with the Congolese people by organizing a rally, teach-in and Lumumba Commemoration in Washington, DC and New York City. We call on our supporters and people of goodwill throughout the globe to join in solidarity with the people of the Congo as they continue the over 125 year pursuit to control and determine their own affairs.

Stay abreast of the latest developments on the elections by visiting our elections corner or follow us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.