At least 17 dead amid op­po­si­tion protests

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

KIN­SHASA (AP): STREET CLASHES be­tween se­cu­rity forces and demon­stra­tors op­posed to Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila left at least 17 dead in Congo’s cap­i­tal yes­ter­day in a dra­matic sign of mount­ing ten­sions af­ter of­fi­cials sought to de­lay the up­com­ing elec­tion un­til next year.

Pro­test­ers threw stones and set tires and ve­hi­cles ablaze, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses. In­te­rior Min­is­ter Evariste Boshab con­firmed that three po­lice of­fi­cers were among the dead, in­clud­ing one who was burned alive.

An As­so­ci­ated Press pho­tog­ra­pher saw at least four civil­ian bod­ies with gun­shot wounds in the streets.

Govern­ment spokesman Lam­bert Mende called the demon­stra­tions a pre-med­i­tated crim­i­nal act.

“This wasn’t a demon­stra­tion at all but an at­tempt to un­leash civil war in the city of Kin­shasa,” he said. “The au­thor­i­ties de­cided to put an end to the protest and dis­perse it.”

Eva Mwakasa, a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion coali­tion La Dy­namique, said it was dif­fi­cult to give a death toll as pro­test­ers had been dis­persed by tear gas.

VOTE DE­LAY

For months, ob­servers have ques­tioned whether Congo could hold the pres­i­den­tial vote as sched­uled on Novem­ber 27. The coun­try’s elec­toral com­mis­sion had in­di­cated that the voter list would not be for­malised be­fore July 2017.

Over the week­end, the com­mis­sion made an of­fi­cial re­quest to the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tional court for a de­lay of the vote.

The vi­o­lence comes amid grow­ing fears that the de­lay could lead to pro­longed un­rest in Congo, a na­tion as vast in size as Western Europe. The min­eral-rich but largely im­pov­er­ished coun­try suf­fered back-to-back civil wars un­til 2003, and pre­vi­ous in­sta­bil­ity has drawn in armies from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

Ka­bila, who came to power af­ter his fa­ther’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 2001, has yet to an­nounce whether he will pur­sue an­other term in of­fice, though the con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits it.

Some view the elec­tion de­lay as a way for him to pro­long his rule be­yond the end of his man­date in late De­cem­ber, as he is able to stay in power in the event there is no elec­tion to choose a suc­ces­sor.

AP

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