Head of the DR Congo Catholic Church Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo on Monday held talks with President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa – coming on the heals of major fallout.
Tshisekedi’s office said in a statement that they discussed Cardinal Ambongo’s visit to eastern DRC, and Tshisekedi’s scheduled trip to the Vatican.
Cardinal Ambongo has dominated the airwaves since his trip to Beni at end of last month, and had stops in other areas in north Kivu. From eastern Congo, Ambongo claimed there was a “balkanization project” to break off a part of Congo from Bunia, down to Fizi – in essence from Uganda border to Burundi.
Cardinal Ambongo made it clear the project is being implemented by regional players he did not name. Since then, the political temperature has exploded – with politicians and activists taking their own turns to outcompete each other as to who makes the most outrageous accusation.
President Tshisekedi himself is being accused by some quarters of being an ineffective facilitator of the balkanization project. He has repeatedly had to defend himself against accusations he is a tool of ex-president Joseph Kabila.
A former Prime Minister, Adolphe Muzito, also coordinator of the opposition coalition from which Tshisekedi snatched the presidency, went further in comments at same time as those of Cardinal Ambongo, blaming Tshisekedi for continued killings in Beni. He also made what some in Rwanda have slammed as madness, but well received in Congo, that DRC should annex Rwanda – as only solution to suffering in eastern.
In Rwanda, Cardinal Ambongo’s comments have been dismissed. Foreign affairs minister Dr Vincent Biruta said on Friday last week that there is not, and has never existed any plan to take away part of Congo.
It remains unclear if Cardinal Ambongo’s meeting with Tshisekedi and Vatican trip were set after his now controversial comments, or had been already scheduled before. What is clear is that Tshisekedi, Cardinal Ambongo and Vatican have plenty to fix.
But Tshisekedi has not been much of a friend to the Catholics even before he came to power.
During the presidential elections in December 2018, the Catholic Church leaked its results to western embassies from nearly across DRC which showed the opposition bloc had won.
In a shock move, the final official government-issued results showed Tshisekedi’s coalition had won, yet it was way behind in the tally of the Catholic Church.
It is believed Kabila and Tshisekedi struck a deal, whose details may never been known, but the actions on the ground confirmed. The two men essentially rule the country together.