The fall-out of the violent repression of the second protest march organised by the Coordinating Committee of committed Catholic Laypersons (CLC) on Sunday 21st January continues to reverberate around the streets of Kinshasa.
A number of Protestant Churches and even the Muslim Council have signalled their support.
Visitors from different parishes in town who pop into the Procure Sainte Anne, where I am staying, are being asked in jest: ‘Did you get your dose of teargas?’.
The general population does not seem to be too traumatised by Sunday’s dramatic events. It is difficult to gauge their determination to push for democratic change. But it is clear that the CLC leadership will not give up.
Bishop Joseph Mokobe of the diocese of Basankusu whom I met in Brussels was particularly pleased that the current movement for democratic change is being led by Catholic laypeople. “Until now it has always been the bishops who made powerful statements protesting the way the country is being run and appealing for justice, peace and good governance. But these high sounding declarations were never followed up by concrete action. We were talking over the heads of the people......This time around it is different”.
If anything last Sunday’s demonstrations showed the country-wide ability of Catholic laity to mobilise people. Religion is a powerful force in this country. Politicians are clearly catching up. Now even political discourse is peppered with religious metaphors. Today a political party leader was quoted as saying: ‘It took seven days and seven circumambulations to bring down the walls of Jericho. So it is for us. There have been two marches so far. There are five more to follow .......’
You don’t have to walk far off the central Boulevard 30 Juin to be overwhelmed by the squalor and neglect evidenced in the unpaved streets full of mudholes emitting an awful stench.
'Don't go there, you'll be mugged', they told me when I asked how to get to the central market.
Teeming crowds make their way along the endless rows of market stalls lining each side. The ‘informal’ economy is thriving. Survival is key. Yet people smile and crack a joke when you address them. A market woman beams a radiant smile when I buy a few bananas. Street kids view the ‘mondele’ (white person) as a soft target for a few coins. They shift gear when they discover that this one knows the local lingo, and a lively conversation ensues.
Can anyone maintain that each country has the government it deserves?
More than half a century after independence this country still awaits a leadership that will take the wellbeing of all its citizens to heart. People pressure supported by lots prayer may still make these walls of Jericho fall and start the process of building a society inspired to promote the common good.
Fons Eppink mhm