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 CNS Story:

CONGO-BISHOPS Dec-7-2012 (390 words) With photo. xxxi

Congo's bishops say pact with rebels must not 'sell out' nation's unity

By Catholic News Service

KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) -- As negotiations between the Congolese government and rebels were to begin, the nation's bishops warned that any agreement should not "sell out the unity of the Congolese nation."

Over the past year, the Congolese bishops have repeatedly drawn attention to a strategy of "balkanization" of the Congo, advocated by neighboring countries that want to divide it and interfere with its rich mineral resources.

"This strategy has followed the same trajectory for dozens of years: questions of (national) identity, finance, rejection of national authority, illegal exploitation of natural resources, forced displacement of populations and use of violence, all with a view to breaking up" Congo, the bishops said in a statement issued at the end of a three-day meeting in Kinshasa.

"It is deplorable that some of you, in privileging your own interests, make yourselves complicit with those who are trying to destroy our national unity," the bishops said to politicians.

They reaffirmed the sovereignty of the country and the "permanence of its borders ... fixed during colonization and recognized by the international community" in 1960. They said the integrity of the territory "is non-negotiable."

Representatives of the government and mostly ethnic M23 rebels, whom the United Nations says are backed by neighboring Rwanda, were scheduled to meet in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 7. A government spokesman said talks with the rebels were only one part of a solution that needed a regional or international resolution.

The statement called on Congolese to show patriotism and remain vigilant so that no one "can make use of your ethnic identity in order to cause opposition for ends which are not clear."

"Faithfulness to national unity and the protection of territorial integrity of (Congo) are a sacred task for all Congolese," they said.

The bishops expressed gratitude to the international community -- including the U.N. mission to Congo, MONUSCO -- for its peace efforts but wondered why the territory of Rutshuru and the city of Goma were not defended from occupation by M23 rebels.

"Should the mandate of MONUSCO not be adapted to respond to the actual situation?" they asked, echoing concerns by civil society groups that called for the mandate of the peacekeeping mission to be strengthened.

They also urged people to continue calling for God's protection.

"Even the most extreme difficulties must not lead us to despair or give up," they said.

END


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