Attacks have surged across the county since President Joseph Kabila and opposition parties failed to reach an agreement on how and when he will leave power after 15 years at the helm of the vast Central African nation.
Kabila was due to leave office on December 19 but the November presidential election was delayed indefinitely. He is barred from running again, and critics accuse him of delaying the vote to extend his rule. His government says it can’t organize a proper election until early 2018.
Tensions over Kabila’s rule have led to violent demonstrations this year, according to the United Nations. The U.N. has urged Congolese security forces to use restraint and allow opposition protesters to voice their dissent.
Negotiations spearheaded by the Catholic Church began December 8 in a last-ditch effort to find a deal before the end of Kabila’s mandate and prevent political violence from engulfing the country.
Catholic priests across Congo on Sunday read out a message from the church’s national head, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, saying: “The time is over when one tried to hold onto power with arms by killing one’s people, these young people who only seek out their right to live with a little more dignity.”