2016-09-26t103946z_326109444_d1beudmupmaa_rtrmadp_3_pope-vatican_0Pope Francis II on 26 September 2016 held a private audience with President Joseph Kabila at the Vatican.

A statement issued by the Vatican at the end of the audience indicated that “particular attention was paid to the serious challenges posed by the current political situation and the recent clashes that occurred in the capital”.

The statement further underscored the « importance of cooperation amongst various political stakeholders, civil society groups, and faith-based organisations in order to promote common interest through a compliant and inclusive dialogue that guarantees peace and stability to the country”.

Also amongst items on the agenda was the restoration of civil coexistence in eastern parts of the DRC, which has been the scene of repetitive rebel attacks since 2014. The increased contribution of the Catholic Church in the areas of education, health and poverty reduction was also thrashed out.

Seventeen people, according to the government official toll, were killed during demonstrations in Kinshasa. The deadly crackdown came as a response to the nation-wide protest called by the opposition against the government’s failure to hold the presidential elections in 2016, before Kabila’s term of office lapses in December 2016. Human Rights Watch however has a deadlier toll of more than 100 people killed while the opposition says thirty seven lost their lives.

To agree on a consensual electoral calendar and political dispensation beyond Kabila’s term, a political dialogue was convened and placed under the mediation of Edem Kodjo, the African Union appointed facilitator. It has since ground to a halt as a result of the violence last week and saw the Catholic Church, a key player in the dialogue, suspend their participation in order to mourn those killed in the unrest.

The opposition have declared three days of national mourning from 26-29 September 2016 and lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court against the government for the killing.

Reactions have increased across the world since the start of violence with the United States and the European Union threatening sanctions against Congolese authorities. The UN however demanded all stakeholders to exercise more restraint for the safety of civilians.