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Protester killed as DR Congo police fire on banned march

© AFP file photo

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-02-25

Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa shot dead an anti-government protester and wounded two others who had gathered to take part in church-led marches against President Joseph Kabila’s rule on Sunday.

Catholic and evangelical church-goers across Congo had been meant to take to the streets following Sunday services, but armed security forces surrounded Kinshasa’s main churches and blocked roads, preventing most demonstrations from getting started.

“Here at the St. François Church, when people gathered to start walking, the police dispersed the crowd using tear gas,” said FRANCE 24's Thomas Nicolon, reporting from Kinshasa.

The death and woundings occurred in different locations in Kinshasa, but all the victims were taken to Kinshasa’s St. Joseph Hospital where they were seen by a Reuters reporter.

FRANCE 24’s Thomas Nicolon: ‘The catholic church isn’t neutral anymore’

In power since 2001, Kabila struck a deal in December 2016 with the main opposition bloc to stay on after his elected mandate expired on the condition elections were held by the end of 2017.

Government authorities missed that deadline and the vote is now scheduled for this December. However, election officials have hinted that polls may not even be possible then because of financial and logistical constraints.

“Our people no longer believe in the political will of our current leaders to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” one of the main organising groups wrote in a statement ahead of the march.

“The big thing that’s changing the game is that the Catholic Church is not neutral anymore. The Catholic Church is asking people to march and to ask Joseph Kabila to step down,” said Nicolon.

Church groups have become the main opposing force to Kabila as political opposition parties have been hobbled by in-fighting or have seen their leaders forced into exile.

As with previous protest marches, Internet, mobile data and phone messaging were all cut across Congo early on Sunday.

Security forces killed about a dozen civilians during two previous marches in the past two months organised by Catholic activists in crackdowns that stoked fears Congo could be sliding back toward the wars of the turn of the century in which millions died.

Kinshasa police commissioner General Sylvano Kasongo had announced a goal of “zero deaths” during a review of police on Saturday.

“It’s our population, our countrymen that we are protecting. I told the policemen not to fire on the population, which is a civilian population that isn’t armed,” he said.

The question now is whether people will try to march again. “People might want to march no matter the attitude of the police,” said Nicolon.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-02-25

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