President Tshisekedi and Cardinal Ambongo Meet to Clarify Issues in the DRC

On Thursday, May 16, 2024, at the Cité de l’Union Africaine in Kinshasa, President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) met with Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo. The two-hour discussion was also attended by the Chargé d’Affaires of the Nunciature, Monsignor Andriy Yevchuk. This meeting was a significant step toward addressing recent tensions between the church and the government.

Cardinal Ambongo had previously made critical remarks about the Congolese authorities, which had led to calls for his prosecution by the public prosecutor’s office at the end of the previous month. The prosecutor, Firmin Mvonde, accused the Cardinal of “spreading rumors, inciting public rebellion against the state, and making demoralizing statements about the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo).” These accusations followed the Cardinal’s vocal criticism of how the Kinshasa government has handled the conflict in Eastern Congo, particularly its arming of civilians and militias such as the Wazalendo and FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).

The call to prosecute Cardinal Ambongo sparked widespread debate on social media, with many Congolese expressing their opposition. Among the critics was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who condemned the move as an attempt by the government to “turn the judiciary into a tool” amidst its inability to restore security.

After the meeting with President Tshisekedi, Cardinal Ambongo spoke to the press, expressing his satisfaction with the discussion. He emphasized the need for cooperation between the church and the state, stating, “When men talk, things become clear. I leave this office with a sense of great satisfaction and appreciation for the head of state. For me, there is no longer an issue; it was more of a misunderstanding than a real problem.”

The Cardinal also highlighted the church and state’s shared goal of working for the “well-being of the people and our nation, which is threatened by the aggression of neighboring countries.” The DRC government accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, who have taken control of significant parts of the North Kivu province. The Rwandan government denies these allegations, blaming the DRC’s inability to resolve its own issues and accusing it of collaborating with the FDLR, a group opposed to Kigali, which Kinshasa also denies.

This meeting between President Tshisekedi and Cardinal Ambongo marks a crucial step towards resolving the tensions between the DRC government and the church.