Pact would force out Joseph Kabila from Congo. If, of course, he agrees


Did a group of bishops just disarm one of the most explosive political problems in Africa? Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, with crowds waiting anxiously in the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Catholic bishops announced a deal that could calm a very turbulent nation. Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, who has overstayed his term in office and is widely believed to have looted millions, would step down by the end of 2017, the bishops said. The opposition would play a meaningful role in a transitional government. Elections would be held. Political prisoners would be freed. This was huge news in Congo, which has never enjoyed a peaceful transfer of power. It has been racked by more rebellion, assassinations, civil war, suffering and death than just about any other country on the continent. Geographically the biggest nation in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most stunningly beautiful, Congo is also one of the poorest and most violent. So in the last few days, many Congolese have expressed relief, gratitude, even downright joy, calling the deal brokered by the Catholic Church “historic.”