Ahead of the presidential election in 2023, Kinshasa-based Ebuteli this month released “The Catholic Church in the DRC: A Neutral Arbiter or at the Heart of Protest?” As the leading institutional voice questioning the results of the 2018 election naming Etienne Tshisekedi as the Congolese President, the Church has continued its opposition to the ruling elite from the early days of Mobutu’s rule.
The National Bishops’ Conference of Congo (CENCO) deployed 40,000 monitors across the country during the 2018 election and vote counting. While the official count elevated Tshisekedi to leadership of Africa’s second largest nation, CENCO announced that its estimates showed Martin Fayulu had a decisive lead. The Archbishop of Kinshasa Cardinal Monswengo stated in a press conference, ” The bishops have clearly said that, according to their observers, Fayulu won the elections”.
Kinshasa-based Ebuteli notes in its report’s conclusion, “the struggle for democracy between 1990 and 2018 reveals a church that is largely invested in the promotion and consolidation of democracy”. It further credits the lay and clergy leadership for the Church’s relatively progressive political positions. “The dynamism of the Congolese church is most likely the result of strong leadership, but also of an invested lay community that remains inspired by the legacy of Cardinals Monsengwo and Malula (the first Congolese Cardinal), as well as the pre-colonial mystic Béatriced Kimpa Vita and the beatified martyrs Isidore Bakanja and Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta.”
Celebrating its opening in February this year, Ebuteli described its work as research on the politics, violence and administration of the Congo. Executive Secretary Fred Bauma noted the name means “stairway” in Lingala which emphasizes the role of credible, reliable information in enabling the nation’s advance to a trustworthy democracy. “Our contribution consists in contributing credible research and information to the political discourse not only of the elite but the whole population” Bauma stated.
Partnering with Ebuteli in the current and in future reports is the Congo Research Group at New York University. Since its founding in 2015 the CRG has largely focused on the numerous rebel groups and neighboring countries fighting over and exploiting the population and resources of eastern Congo. The new partnership with Congolese based researchers, in preparation for next year’s election, represents an expansion of the CRG vision for benefiting Congo’s stability and self determination. Jason Stearns, director of CRG, commented on the significance of the first report, “The Catholic Church has been the bedrock of protest movements in the Congo since at least 1992, a moral authority and mobilization network.”
The writer of this blog is indebted to the Congolese Actualité.cd for its article dated Feb. 26, 2022 on Ebuteli’s founding and to the website of the Congo Research Group. You may read the English version of the 22 page report on the Congolese Catholic Church’s history of opposition to the Congolese state’s leadership here:
CONGO WEEK Begins Sunday October 16
For the themes and resources for public education during this year’s Congo Week go to: