Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Zaire's Bishops Accuse Mobutu of Scare Tactics

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Zaire's Bishops Accuse Mobutu of Scare Tactics

Article excerpt

Zaire's Catholic bishops have bitterly accused Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko of seeking to terrorize the Zairean people into silence in the period before democratic elections scheduled for later this year.

In a statement issued in late December following their annual meeting, the bishops said that any Zairean opposing Mobutu's plans "runs grave risks" ranging from physical violence to public denigration. "This campaign of denigration and physical or moral attack seems aimed at suppressing or reducing to silence anyone capable of expressing themselves freely in future elections," said the bishops. They also accused Mobutu of fostering ethnic strife and encouraging government soldiers to loot and pillage areas regarded as centers of opposition to his rule.

The bishops particularly decried Mobutu supporters' deliberate campaigns against Catholic clergy, churchgoers and places of worship. In recent years, the Catholic church provided a major focus for anti-Mobutu and pro-democracy organizing (NCR, Feb. 12, 1993; Feb. 22 and March 13, 1992).

But compromises with Mobutist forces made last spring by Zairean Bishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinye -- when he chaired the interim national conference overseeing the transition to democracy -- have proved controversial (NCR, Sept. 30, 1994).

The statement by the bishops was issued only days before Mobutu pardoned several former government officials jailed for their involvement in a May 1990 massacre of students at the University of Lubumbashi in southern Zaire by elite troops under his control. …

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