Today’s Reported Murder of a Priest the Latest Sign of the DRC in Crisis

The BBC is reporting today that a priest was murdered in the city of Lubumbashi. While many details about the killing are unknown, it could be another sign that President Joseph Kabila’s machinations to postpone elections for up to two years are plunging the country into a state of violent uncertainty.

According to the BBC, Father Joseph Mulimbi Nguli was shot dead in a relative’s home by men wearing ski masks. The archdiocese of Lubumashi and the city’s police chief are calling for an investigation of this audacious killing.

Events have been spiraling toward peril since the country’s nominally independent election commission, CENI, made it official on September 19 that elections scheduled for November 28 will not take place could be put off until well into 2018. The country’s high court, as expected, affirmed the Kabila government’s flawed assertion that this is perfectly acceptable under the country’s Constitution. Kabila is refusing to step down December 19 as required by the country’s Constitution or to set a date for his departure.

Kabila’s security apparatus has intensified the use of violence to muffle the voices of people demanding his departure and adherence to democracy. A national work stoppage and protest in September was met with lethal force by government security and police. The UN report released last week concluded at least 53 people were killed over two days, 143 injured and more than 299 unlawfully arrested. Two of the dead were children and seven were women, according to the report. A summary provided by the UN was profoundly disturbing:

The vast majority of the victims – 38 of them – were shot dead, according to the preliminary investigation. Many of them were shot in the head, chest and back, including a five-year-old girl who was shot in the back, the report states. Others died after being burned, stabbed, beaten or attacked with machetes. Of the 143 documented as injured, 75 were victims of the excessive use of force by State agents while 68 were injured by unknown perpetrators.

In September, Amnesty International released a report Dismantling dissent: DRC’s Repression of Expression Amidst Electoral Delays which catalogued the Kabila regime’s systematic repression of free speech and attacks on political opposition with the use of excessive force, violence and torture.

The “national dialogue” Kabila has cynically staged to facilitate elections has been boycotted by Rassemblement, and the G7 opposition groups and civil society organizations. They have rightfully insisted that Kabila must first free political prisoners and declare his intentions to exit the presidency. As we have said, unless these conditions are met, the gathering would have simply served as a platform for Kabila to further manipulate public opinion.

Two weeks ago, Maman Sambo Sidikou, the head of the U.N. mission in DRC warned the United Nations Security Council the country has “entered a period of extreme risk to its stability” and “large-scale violence is all but inevitable.”