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The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who for decades have suffered from the consequences of economic chaos, civil war, misgovernment, official corruption, and external intervention may now have an opportunity for peace and security through the full implementation of the Lusaka Agreement.
In Lusaka, Zambia, the governments of the central African region, whose troops are operating in the Congo, and the several rebel and client militias have concurred in a far-reaching agreement. The agreement calls for a cease fire, withdrawal of foreign forces, deployment of an international peacekeeping force, disarmament of militias, and the start of an all-inclusive national dialogue.
The Catholic bishops of the Congo strongly support the objectives of the Lusaka agreement and call for free and open elections resulting in a government of national unity. They also urge an international conference in the interests of peace and of the suffering peoples of the Great Lakes Region. The bishops, along with other Christian churches in the Great Lakes region, have been persistent in appealing for peace dialogue, democracy and reconciliation.
Central Africa is at a crossroads -- either the Lusaka agreement will be implemented and the long and difficult road to peace, democratic rule, and reconstruction is opened, or the region will descend into deeper chaos, inhumanity, and bloodshed. All political and religious leaders -- African and Western -- have an obligation to help the DRC and the Great Lakes region to find the road to peace. Those western nations who derived particular advantage from their support of oppressive local regimes, economic exploitation, and the arms trade have special obligations to give whole hearted support to implementation of the Lusaka agreement. By the same token, those neighboring states who have pursued their own political, security and economic objectives at the expense of the Congolese people are also obliged to support a cease fire, disarmament of their client militias, and to respect the territorial integrity of the DRC. All states of the region, of course, should work in collaboration with their neighbor to prevent cross border incursion from whatever source.
The Catholic bishops of the United States wish to respond to the appeals for solidarity and support that have come from out brother bishops in the Congo at this fateful and decisive moment for their country and its neighbors. We urge our own government to vigorously support the full implementation of the Lusaka agreement, the economic and social reconstruction of the DRC, and a just political settlement of the conflict, all of which should be part of a serious effort to bring a just peace to the wider Great Lakes Region.
The Catholic Church in the Congo deserves our prayers and support as it seeks to contribute to a just peace and reconciliation in extremely difficult circumstances. So, too, the people of the Congo deserve our support and encouragement as they take steps to escape from the bonds of this brutal conflict.
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
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