United Nations chief urges 'restraint' in DR Congo after deadly protest

Andrew Cummings
January 25, 2018

Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday as the authorities cracked down on a banned protest against President Joseph Kabila.

The agreement at the heart of the protests ¬- facilitated by Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) mediators - allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term and stipulated that peaceful, credible and inclusive elections would be organized in the DRC by the end of December 2017.

Police have used tear gas to disperse protesters in Kinshasa, where United Nations peacekeepers have been deployed.

"The church deplores the excessive use of force on demonstrators who were only armed with Bibles, rosaries and branches, " said Abb Donatien Nshole, the secretary general of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, in a statement to RNS.

The UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said six people were killed in Kinshasa and 57 injured nationwide in the rallies.

A 16-year-old girl died after shots were fired from an armored vehicle at the entrance to a church in the Kitambo area of the capital, Jean-Baptise Sondji, a former minister and government opponent, told AFP.

"An armored auto 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 church has been joined by a group of 8 intellectuals in calling for the march to be peaceful.

The internet, email and social media messaging networks were cut in the capital ahead of the march.

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

"The objective of the march was to claim effective and efficient implementation of the agreement of December 31, 2016, " said Nshole of the Sunday protests. Other cities remain quiet, it reports, though a heavy police presence has been seen in many places.

Kabila, 46, has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticized for corruption, repression and incompetence. That was supposed to have happened more than a year ago.

Instead, the election to replace him, originally planned for 2016, has now been delayed until December 2018.

Critics accuse Kabila of postponing elections to maintain his grip on power, while global observers have warned that Congo's political tensions could further destabilize the impoverished country and the region at large.

In protests in late December, at least seven people were killed, and altar boys were arrested.

Dozens were arrested in the aftermath of those protests.

Demonstrations were taking place across the country, including Goma and Lubumbashi.

"If they decide to repress, there will be no peace", he said.

Other reports by iNewsToday