DR Congo: Sev­eral deaths in anti-Ka­bila protests

Zambian Business Times - - POLITICS AND GOVERNMENTS -

At least six peo­ple have been killed in wide­spread protests in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, United Na­tions sources say. Protesters are de­mand­ing that Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila - whose ex­pected term of of­fice ex­pired more than a year ago - should step down.

Po­lice have used tear gas to dis­perse protesters in Kin­shasa, where UN peace­keep­ers have been de­ployed. Sim­i­lar demon­stra­tions three weeks ago led to a num­ber of deaths.

A spokesman for the UN mis­sion to the coun­try said about 50 peo­ple were in­jured in Sun­day's clashes and that dozens had been ar­rested.

Jean-Bap­tise Sondji, a for­mer min­is­ter, told AFP he had wit­nessed the death of a 16-year-old girl out­side a church in the Ki­ta­mbo area of the cap­i­tal.

"An ar­mored car passed in front of the church. They be­gan fir­ing live bul­lets, I pro­tected my­self...a girl who was at the left side door of the church was hit," he said.

The wide­spread marches had been called for by the coun­try's Catholic Church, which ap­pealed for a large but peace­ful demon­stra­tion.

The Con­golese au­thor­i­ties, how­ever, banned the marches and no for­mal per­mis­sion was given. On Sat­ur­day evening, in­ter­net ac­cess in the cap­i­tal Kin­shasa was cut.

Po­lice warned that they would not tol­er­ate "any at­tempt to dis­turb pub­lic or­der."

De­spite the ban, protesters gath­ered af­ter morn­ing Mass on Sun­day to march through the streets, ac­com­pa­nied by mem­bers of the clergy.

Lo­cal me­dia out­let Ra­dio Okapi re­ported protests in Kin­shasa, Kisan­gani, and Bukavu. Other cities re­main quiet, it re­ports, though a heavy po­lice pres­ence has been seen in many places.

Ra­dio Okapi also later said that one of its jour­nal­ists had been wounded by a bul­let in the Lemba dis­trict of the cap­i­tal.

The UN mis­sion in the coun­try - which has been run­ning con­tin­u­ally since 1999 - said it de­ployed its troops to the streets to ob­serve and record any vi­o­lence.

Pres­i­dent Ka­bila has been in power since 2001, and was sup­posed to step down af­ter his sec­ond and fi­nal term came to an end in 2016.

Un­der a deal reached more than a year ago, he was due to step down by the end of 2017 - but that has not hap­pened.

In­stead, the elec­tion to re­place him, orig­i­nally planned for 2016, has now been de­layed un­til De­cem­ber 2018. The coun­try's pow­er­ful Catholic Church has been a voice of op­po­si­tion to Mr. Ka­bila. The Church also called for the demon­stra­tions in late De­cem­ber which led to at least seven deaths, ac­cord­ing to UN peace­keep­ers.

Dozens were ar­rested in the af­ter­math of those protests.

Sun­day's demon­stra­tions were also backed by the coun­try's Mus­lim com­mu­nity. Be­fore the march, rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cheikh Ali Mwinyi M'Kuur told AFP: "I ask the au­thor­i­ties to avoid re­press­ing the march."

"If they de­cide to re­press, there will be no peace. But if they let the march take place, they will re­spect the con­sti­tu­tion and peace will pre­vail," he said.

DR Congo's evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian churches also lent their sup­port to the march or­ga­nized by their Catholic coun­ter­parts

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