Published: Tue, January 23, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

'Five dead' in banned protest in Kinshasa

'Five dead' in banned protest in Kinshasa

France on Monday blamed Congolese security forces for the shooting dead of at least six people and wounding of dozens during a protest against President Joseph Kabila organised by the Catholic Church. She was fatally shot as she stepped out of a church in the Kitambo section of the capital, according to Jean-Baptise Sondji, a doctor and former minister who is now a government opponent.

50 people were injured in Sunday's clashes and dozens arrested according to a spokesman for the United Nations mission while a former minister Jean-Baptise Sondji said he witnessed the death of a 16-year-old.

"An armored auto passed in front of the church".

"A girl who was at the left side door of the church was hit by a bullet", he said, adding that she was already dead when she was taken by taxi to a hospital.

At least 16 people were wounded, four seriously, including two from bullets, during the protest, a nurse at a medical centre near Saint-Joseph church in another popular sector of the city.

"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.

Tensions were also reported by AFP journalists in the major cities of Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Goma, Beni and Mbuji Mayi.

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The previous anti-Kabila march, on December 31, descended into a bloody crackdown after police and security forces fired on protesters.

This has stoked fears that the vast, mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo could slide back into the wars that killed millions in the 1990s, mostly from hunger and disease.

Kabila can remain in power until the next election is held, although he is barred by the Constitution from seeking another term in office.

"I marched today for a simple reason: I want to bring up my children in a country that respects human rights", protester Pascal Kabeya, a 40-year-old market trader, said amid a few hundred demonstrators in a Kinshasa suburb. Internet access in Kinshasa, the country's capital, was cut the day before.

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

The protests organised by the Catholic church have been supported by worldwide bodies and countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

The Catholic church was pivotal in mediation between the government and the opposition forces, yet, Kabila failed to follow the agreement he signed pledging to step down at the end of a year ago for peace to prevail.

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