The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo is a disgrace to the church and the Congolese nation.
In his address to Pope Francis during the Pope’s recent visit to Congo, Ambongo spoke passionately about the suffering and misery of the Congolese people. But, like the proverbial ostrich, he buried his head in the sand and deliberately avoided mentioning the causes of the dire situation in Congo.
Ambongo misled the Pope and the whole world about the situation in Congo.
It is true the people of Congo are suffering but the root cause is Mobutu Sese Seko and not Felix Tshisekedi as Ambongo would have us believe.
The Congolese people are suffering today because of Mobutu’s corruption, mismanagement, repression and theft of national resources.
The corruption and mismanagement continued under Joseph Kabila.
Ambongo should know this.
The problems of Congo can be traced back to the rule of Mobutu, the sanguinary dictator whose personal fortune was at one point equivalent to the country’s total debt.
At the height of his kleptocracy, Mobutu was reported to have amassed a personal fortune of over US$5 billion dollars. He unscrupulously sold off Congo’s natural resources while the generality of the Congolese people languished in poverty and misery.
The bulk of Mobutu’s money was stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland. A Swiss member of Parliament Jean Ziegler confirmed this.
“Swiss banks are world champions in building up empires for crooks and then protecting them behind smoke screens,” Ziegler said.
“We are talking about companies owned by Mobutu’s family, with very complicated structures and accounts for the whole clan.”
Mobutu also owned two dozen foreign properties worth millions of dollars. These included posh residences in France, Portugal and Morocco. The dictator also owned hotels in Spain and South Africa and coffee plantations in Brazil and Ivory Coast.
Mobutu’s voracious accumulation of wealth explains the long history of poverty, deprivation and misery the people of Congo have suffered. This is what Cardinal Ambongo should have explained to the Pope.
Instead, Ambongo showed that he is a hypocrite, playing tribal politics in Congo, thereby worsening an already complicated and explosive economic, political and social situation in the country. The cardinal is a lunatic lighting a match inside a powder keg.
Cardinal Ambongo has allowed his personal hatred of President Tshisekedi to cloud his assessment of the current situation in Congo. He is a cardinal and yet so full of hate.
The Congolese people know that during the last election, Ambongo wanted someone else to be president of Congo.
Tribal politics and vendettas will only hamper development in Congo – a country vastly endowed with natural resources.
Yes, there is a lack of development in Congo. Yes, there is dire poverty but President Tshisekedi has nothing to do with this. In fact, for the short period he has been in power, Tshisekedi has done a lot to reduce poverty and build infrastructure in Congo.
Also, in addressing the Pope, Ambongo didn’t condemn Rwanda’s aggression against Congo and Rwanda’s support for the M23 Movement. The cardinal conveniently forgot to tell the Pope that Rwanda has plundered Congo’s minerals and caused a flood of refugees and displaced people in eastern Congo. So, the question is ‘On whose side is Ambongo?’
Church leaders must speak the truth and when it comes to that, Ambongo has failed abysmally.
Doesn’t the Bible say, “The truth shall set you free?”
* Joseph Kanyinda Madimba is a business and financial markets expert. He has done research into the impact of politics and governance on the economies of developing countries.