CONGO – Priest who reported atrocities and campaigned for human rights killed by gunmen
A 51-year-old Congolese Catholic priest who documented human rights abuses in his home country was killed by armed militants in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Father Vincent Machozi Karunzu was visiting his family in the village of Katolu.
Details of the priest’s death were revealed on the human rights website Beni Lubero, which he had founded. Ten uniformed soldiers of the DRC’s armed forces stormed a social center where Nande tribal chiefs were holding a meeting about peace efforts. The gunmen demanded to be taken to the priest and to Mwami Abdu Kalemire III, the leader of the Basho community. Fr Vincent was working on a laptop in the courtyard when they shot him. His last words were “Why are you killing?”
Fr Vincent worked in peace-building activities and documented human rights abuses and atrocities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Shortly before he was killed, he had posted an article online denouncing Congolese and Rwandan presidents’ alleged involvement in massacres of innocent civilians. He accused the local Hutu people of plotting with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo to murder the local Nindu population.
Fr Vincent had survived at least seven previous attempts on his life and had spoken of his fears last October to Rev. Emmanuel Kahindo, the vicar general for the Assumptionist religious order: “My days are numbered. I will be murdered, I feel it […] but like Christ, for the sake of our people, I will not be silent,”
Timothy Longman, a Boston University science professor said his former colleague Fr Vincent was only trying to tell the world about the killing in his country and who was responsible for these atrocities. . “He wasn’t on any particular side.”
Dana Robert, a professor of world Christianity, praised Fr Vincent’s work in documenting massacres and his role in “giving voice to the voiceless.” Comparing him to others who had been killed for speaking out against injustice such as Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., she said “When you do that, you become a target, and he did that knowing what the danger was”.
Fr Vincent was one of thirteen children, some of whom died at birth, which is why his mother called him Machozi, “son of tears.” He joined the Assumptionists at the age of 17.and taught religion, chemistry and mathematics before taking final vows.
Fr Vincent obtained a master’s degree in theology at the Institut Catholique in Lille, France. He then moved to the U.S. in 2003 and later began dostudying for his doctorate in conflict management and peace processes in Africa at Boston University’s Department of Theology . While he was in Boston, he worked with the Haitian community as a French-speaking priest.