Democratic Republic of Congo: gunfire in churches after protests against President Kabila

Democratic Republic of Congo: gunfire in churches after protests against President Kabila

Democratic Republic of Congo: gunfire in churches after protests against President Kabila

The Democratic Republic of Congo's government ordered ISPs and telecom firms to suspend Internet access and SMS services in a bid to quell planned anti-government protests.

Kabila, whose mandate ended December 2016, had agreed to set an election by the end of 2017. Marchers were told to parade through the streets after Mass carrying Bibles and crucifixes to call for him not to seek a third term.

"The Secretary-General calls on the Government and national security forces to exercise restraint and to uphold the rights of the Congolese people to the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly", said the statement.

The protesters were seeking a promise from Kabila that he will not seek to further extend his time in power in the mostly Catholic former Belgian colony.

Catholic grassroots activists and civil rights groups have called for peaceful protests in response to the political situation, however, the latest round of protests has led to heavy police response.

Congo's election commission has set a new date for presidential and legislative elections, which is to be held on December 23, 2018, though the opposition has said it would only agree to delay the vote until June 2018.

A government statement said one policeman had also been killed.

One army officer threatened a team of AFP reporters covering the crackdown at St. Michael's church in Kinshasa. "We have to turn out in droves in the face of these mercenaries", he said, referring to the security forces.

"We can only denounce, condemn and stigmatise the behaviour of our supposedly courageous men in uniform, who, sadly, and no more or less, are channelling barbarism", he said.

A journalist for French radio station RFI was briefly detained, AFP reporters saw.

Despite pressure from overseas, the authorities seem intent on pursuing a clampdown, flooding cities with police and troops whenever the opposition tries to make a show of strength, analysts said. She also said that dozens, including some priests, have been detained.

At the Notre Dame cathedral in the northern Lingwala district of Kinshasa, security forces deployed tear gas as opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi arrived, AFP reporters said.

The country has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. Kabila has refused to step down and imposed restrictions on the flow of information in the country.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende earlier alleged that "weapons of war have been distributed" by opponents of the government. The country has been wracked by violence since an insurrection began in August.

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