Pro Deo et Patria: unfolding the hybrid governance and political participation of religious institutions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Nyundu Mabiala, Sublime
The nexus between Religion and Politics has shifted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2016—a year that marked the end of Joseph Kabila’s constitutional two-term limit. This interdisciplinary thesis unfolds the public role played by the Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) that regroups all Catholic bishops on a national scale and l’Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), which is the confederation of 95 Protestant denominations, in that epochal change. Using qualitative and interpretive approaches, this thesis specifically looks at the interlinkages between those two major religious networks and the State to highlight the shift in the Catholic-Protestant communication, mobilization, and participation toward national Politics. It draws on ten months of fieldwork in Kinshasa, the capital-city, with two additional months of follow-up research in Brussels, Belgium and in Vatican-city, Italy. CENCO and ECC have functioned as hybrid governance institutions and actors by using their social influences to shape political order and to provide basic public services. With regards to previous researches in the expanding literature that explores the intersection of Religion and Politics, this thesis brings a particular and primary contribution in displaying how and why the Catholic-Protestant political engagement in the recent years changed considerably in the DRC. The timeframe of this inquiry (that goes from 2016 to 2019) coincided with a specific moment when religious leaders emerged as active and critical voices. The Catholic bishops of CENCO first stepped up as mediators between Kabila’s administration and opposition leaders and fostered the signature of the Saint-Sylvester peace accord in December 2016. Joined later by their Protestant peers of ECC, they also mobilized societal energies as protest catalysts alongside Christian laity and youth-driven civil movements that paved the road to the DRC’s first and historic peaceful transfer of power since its independence from Belgium. That event was concretized by the outgoing Joseph Kabila and the elected Felix Tshisekedi on 24 January 2019 on the lawn of the Palais de la nation. This work also paid a particular attention to historical, cultural, and theological underpinnings linked to this shift in religious political participation. The research relies on interviews conducted among Congolese religious elites, leaders, and laypersons over a period of two years. Despite its ambivalence as observed in post-2018 elections’ era, Religion served both as a cohesive and transformational political force in the DRC.