Anti-Kabila demonstration sees civilian death toll rise in DRC

Protesters peacefully demonstrate to call President Kabila to step down. Protesters peacefully demonstrate to call President Kabila to step down. John Wessels, AFP

19 January 2018
Demonstrations on the transition deal’s anniversary leave up to 12 people dead and over 100 arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Protests organised predominantly by the Catholic Church and backed by the country's main opposition groups were met with violence from police and armed forces in Kinshasa and Kananga on 31 December 2017. Government forces moved in to quell and discourage public outpouring of outrage at its failure to uphold a transition deal wherein elections were to have been held by the end of 2017. The church-brokered deal, which was finalised one year ago, brought hope for the first peaceful power transition in the DRC since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The clamp down on protesters is the latest civil unrest in the DRC, as impatience with President Joseph Kabila reaches breaking point for many. He has been in power since the assassination of his father and predecessor, in 2001. Reports from the UN and protest organisers indicate that up to 12 people were killed and many more wounded as government forces attacked demonstrating worshippers; numerous witnesses report tear gas being fired into churches mid-prayer as well as bullets being shot overhead. One reporter in Kananga described seeing a man shot in the chest as police opened fire on worshippers. Although government officials contest the death toll, a UN source reported that in addition to the fatalities over 100 people were arrested: 82 in the capital, including priests, and 41 in the rest of the country. Furthermore, internet and SMS services were temporarily shut down at the behest of the government hours before protests began, under the auspices of ‘reasons of state security’.


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