Catholic Led Protests in DRC Led to Bloodshed by Government Forces

ICC Note

The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led protests against President Kabila. The president, who was supposed to step down in 2016, given an extra year when church led accords postponed the elections until November 2017. When the time for elections came however, the electoral commission decided to postpone them again for another year. The Catholic Church led a peaceful march in Kinshasa on Sunday 21 January, to protest this extension and breaking of their Constitution. Government forces responded with teargas and live ammunition, which left 6 people dead and another 50 injured. 

01/23/2018 DRC (TheTablet) Last Sunday’s peaceful marches in Democratic Republic of Congo, organised by the Catholic Church and calling for respect for the country’s constitution, prompted a crackdown by the military that left at least six people dead, around 50 people injured and dozens arrested.

Protesters were demanding that President Joseph Kabila – whose legitimate term of office expired more than a year ago – should step down.

Many protesters gathered after Mass to march through the streets, accompanied by members of the clergy, despite roadblocks on major routes. DR Congo’s evangelical Christian churches lent their support to the marches, along with the country’s Muslim community.

One of those killed in Kinshasa was a 16-year-old girl at a church door, caught in gunfire from an armoured car passing the church. The Congolese authorities had banned the marches, with police warning that they would not tolerate “any attempt to disturb public order”. The UN mission in the country said it deployed its troops onto the streets to observe and record any violence.

UN radio in Congo reported coalition parties criticised the Church for organising the protests, which they said were “against the interests of the DRC”.

The Catholic Church makes up half the 67.5 million inhabitants of Congo and has pressed Kabila to step down since his second and final term expired more than a year ago.

A church-brokered accord in December 2016 allowed the president to stay in office, alongside an opposition head of government, pending elections by the end of 2017. However, in November, Congo’s Electoral Commission said the ballot would be postponed until 23 December 2018.

 

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