Letter to Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs: "Canada must contribue to bring peace in Congo and in the African Great Lakes region", said the President of the CCCB

Wednesday, September 11 2002

[CCCB translation]

The Honourable Bill Graham
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Bldg.
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G2

Dear Mr. Minister:

During meetings that I had with your predecessor in November 2001 and April 2002, I indicated to him that the Catholic Church in Canada had strong concerns about the then prevailing war situation in the Congo and the African Great Lakes region. According to experts, as you know, the conflict is responsible for about 2.5 million people suffering from severe shortages in basic necessities as well as from famine because of the closing of the Congo River. Despite its positive role, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) finds itself helpless in this situation, as much from a limited mandate as from the limited means at its disposal.

At the same time that the Congo faces a grave humanitarian crisis, there are also reasons to rejoice at the important progress that has been made over the last months with the positive advances in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and the 30 July 2002 Pretoria accord between Congo President Kabila of the Congo and President Kagame of Rwanda.

Given this situation, I have two requests that I wish to convey to you in the name of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. First of all, that Canada continue and even intensify its efforts to bring peace to the Congo and the surrounding countries. Secondly, that your government immediately provide through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) the funding necessary for the major efforts that are needed in reconstruction and rehabilitation.

1. Building peace in the Congo and in Central Africa

Canadian Catholics are pleased that Canada is playing a constructive role in bringing peace to the Congo and Central Africa, especially by helping to finance the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and also through the work of Canada’s special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo/Great Lakes, Mr. Marc-André Brault. We are also happy with the important place given to this question in the Africa Action Plan that was approved by the G-8 countries at their meeting this past June in Kananaskis.

We would hope that Canada would not only continue this pro-active approach but even intensify it by giving support to the various protagonists who are attempting to work toward peace. Possible areas of action for Canada include the reinforcement of the role of MONUC, the effective participation of Canadian military in this UN mission, the organization of a regional conference for peace and development in the African Great Lakes region, and assistance in the reintegration of Rwandan military in their country.

2. Creation of a reconstruction fund for the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Thirty years of dictatorship and six years of war have left the Congo in a terrible state of political, economic and social disarray. Canada must act, out of a sense of respect for human dignity, and also because it recognizes that the Congo has immense natural riches capable of assuring its people of a decent life over the long term.

We ask that a reconstruction/rehabilitation fund for the Congo be created at CIDA that can provide substantial financial resources and permit a gradual transition from humanitarian assistance to development aid. What is needed immediately are the means for the people of the Congo to survive, and over time active Canadian involvement in rebuilding the country’s social fabric, economic infrastructures and political institutions.

Trusting that Canada will act in the spirit of the Africa Action Plan that was endorsed by the G-8 countries, I thank you, Mr. Minister, for the attention that you will give to considering the above requests.


+ Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops