“The task of preventing Democratic Republic of Congo’s political crisis from spiraling into fresh conflict falls to the country’s Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to emerge from decades of turmoil with its credibility intact.
The role as mediator of last resort illustrates the clout of the Church in Congo – home to some 30 million faithful – where Catholic leaders have long gone beyond their pastoral duties to fill the void left by an absent state, providing healthcare and schooling, and promoting human rights and democracy.
In October, Congo’s President Joseph Kabila appeared to have secured the backing of regional leaders for an African Union-mediated deal with some opposition leaders to remain in power until April 2018, a year and a half after his second and last term in office ends.
However, heavyweight rivals such as veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi boycotted the process, insisting Kabila step aside this month.
Diplomatic and political sources said neighboring leaders delivered a clear message to Kabila in private at a summit in Angola – seek help from CENCO, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Congo, to get more rivals on board, or risk major unrest.”