DRC: Bishops’ Body Replies to Attorney General on Judicial Inquest, Defends Cardinal Ambongo and Explains Reason for not Honouring Prosecutors’ Invite

By Paschal Norbert

KINSHASA, MARCH 9, 2024 (CISA) – “There is nothing to dramatize; Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo has never refused to respond to an invitation from justice. But if it turns into harassment, it will call for another reaction,” said Fr Donatien Nhsole Babula, the Secretary General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO).

In a press statement dated April 30, 2024, Msgr Nshole acknowledged the conference had received numerous reactions from the Catholic faithful, people of goodwill “who love justice” and civil society organizations seeking clarification into the stand of the DRC Catholic Church into a letter dated April 27 doing rounds on social media and signed by Firmin Mvonde Mambu, the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation in DRC in which he directs the Chief Prosecutor to initiate legal proceedings against Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa.

Fr Donatien Nhsole Babula, Secretary General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO).

In the letter, the Attorney General of the Court Cassation writes to the Chief Prosecutor at the Court of Appeal in Kinshasa-Matete saying “I hereby order you to open a judicial file against the above-mentioned prelate who deliberately violates consciences and seems to find pleasure in spreading false rumours and other incitements for the population to revolt against established institutions and in plots against human lives.”

Replying to the letter, the Secretary General of CENCO said “This Monday, April 29, the Chancellery of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa confirmed having received a letter from the Prosecutor General at the Court of Cassation, with an invitation to the Cardinal, which however arrived during his absence, being given that the Archbishop of Kinshasa, in his capacity as President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM), stayed abroad between April 23 and 26, as attested by the immigration services. It is therefore not a question of a refusal to respond to the invitation in question nor of a lack of consideration towards Justice.”

Cardinal Ambongo is particularly  accused of issuing “a constant stream of seditious remarks made during press briefings, interviews, and other sermons” that are “likely to discourage the soldiers of the Republic’s armed forces who are fighting at the front, but also inciting the mistreatment by rebels and other invaders of local populations already battered by so many years of destabilization.”

Ambongo, a vocal prelate and critic of the regime of President Félix Tshisekedi, has never shied away from calling truth to power. In 2023, he alluded to fraud in the December elections that re-elected Tshisekedi for a second term.

Observers say the revitalized push by the Attorney General of Cassation to have Ambongo prosecuted is to silence the firebrand prelate who is also a member of Pope Francis’ council of cardinals’- christened the C9.