with ORS (“Oeuvres de reclassement sociale” – ‘Works of social rehabilitation‘). Here a few km from Kananga, young people are trained in horticulture. Furthermore, better agricultural yields and combating deforestation are among its priorities.
with Grocampo. This organization, founded in 2020, coordinates Mpokolo wa Muoyo, Cerdes, Kankala and ORS in the creation of new projects. For example, they are currently working on the launch and development of a multi-year action plan, which focuses on sex education and responsible parenting and aims to reach as many young people as possible from the city of Kananga (more than 2 million inhabitants). The training of good educators is crucial in this regard. For this action, they also want to cooperate with radio Diku Dietu and the women’s organization Bamamu.
Ivo Vanvolsem is also chaplain of the central prison in Kananga. Young people regularly end up there. With a few students, support is provided to offer legal protection to the children but also to the other prisoners. This is necessary as shown in the report Luk Alloo made for VTM (March 16, 2017). Click here to re-watch this reportage via VTM GO (in Dutch).
In April 2019, Ivo writes:
We are experiencing strange conditions in prison.
At the beginning of this year, there were up to 960 prisoners, including more than 500 insurgents from Kamuina Nsapu. When it was learned in January that Felix Tshisekedi became the new president of Congo, all the prisoners expected to be freed quickly. Especially when the new president announced an amnesty for all the country’s political prisoners. Kamuina Nsapu insurgents consider their uprising a political movement against former President Kabila. So they began forcefully demanding their release. Their allies who had reported to the governor had not been apprehended. So … “why must we continue to renounce in prison?”…
In April there were still 800 prisoners and people began to be freed regularly, more than 100 in all. Promises were made to free more prisoners but they remained empty words. Much to the anger of the prisoners who felt cheated and rebelled. The director and all his staff were no longer welcome and were chased away by the prisoners. They broke open the doors of all their sleeping quarters, destroyed the offices of the director and burned all the documents. To this day, they all sleep outside around a fire in the large courtyard. The entire prison is surrounded day and night by heavily armed soldiers. On the inside of the entrance gate there are also a lot of armed forces of order. Those in charge of the prison do not go further than a few meters inside. They are frightened because five meters away is a whole group of angry prisoners who do not call their guards too fine swear words.
The entire prison has been run exclusively by prisoners for many weeks now. As a result, little by little at night they clamber over the high fence wall and start running after taking out the soldiers on the outside of the wall using strong homegrown alcohol, hemp and money. About 200 walked away. In response, the state transferred a group of 45 prisoners to several other prisons more than a thousand kilometers from Kananga. They did so deceptively because some of the soldiers wore T-shirts referring to demobilization and reintegration. So they gave the impression that this was a legal liberation, which turned out not to be the case afterwards. This intensified the anger of the other prisoners.
Only we with our church service are still welcome there; the prisoners trust us completely. We just carry on with our daily services. The frightened people of the state do not understand this and stand there looking on with livid eyes. When they ask us to know why, we reply that it has to do with respect and love. They don’t understand that either… After many meetings with the state authorities, under the guidance of the UNO, the state has entrusted us with a very difficult task: to work for reconciliation between them and the prisoners. We have accepted that but it is walking on Congolese ice!
A new water pump has been purchased in Kinshasa, but until tensions in the prison are resolved, it is difficult to drill a well there. So we wait… The same goes for the new latrines for which the money has been deposited by the action “The PoTop” in Antwerp.
In addition to presiding at the Sunday Eucharist, Ivo, along with several volunteers, provides legal advice to the prisoners and specifically cares about the fate of female inmates and their babies. With the financial help of Without Walls, a second water pump could also be installed recently.
Mpokolo Congo works together with the Belgian support groups Cerdes, Kankala and ORS with the aim of creating a more efficient assistance. Two principles come first: initiatives must be supported by the organizations in Kananga and critical questioning is essential.
Mpokolo Congo supports the boat transports and the (military) humanitarian flights organized from Belgium towards Kananga. It is gratifying to note that people and organizations in Asse, Beersel, Geel, Halle, Oostende and Sint-Pieters-Leeuw regularly contribute to this by delivering children’s clothing, usable toys, medical material….
It has grown historically that much support was also given from the Netherlands to Mpokolo wa Muoyo especially through MIVA (now together with the Juliana Fund), heir of “the friends of Fr. Peeters” (at the time a colleague of Fr. Ivo Vanvolsem). We hope that this significant assistance can be perpetuated.