Congolese Police Fire On Demonstrators Protesting Against Kabila

Feb 26, 2018
Originally published on February 26, 2018 9:57 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations peacekeepers say there is not nearly enough peace. On Sunday, protesters demanded the departure of the president. Police arrested dozens of protesters, and two people were killed, which drew the criticism of the United Nations. The Congolese authorities deny anyone died, but this is becoming a pattern - the Catholic Church supports demonstrations, and security forces open fire. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: For the third time in two months, protesters calling for President Joseph Kabila to step down have taken to the streets of DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, and other towns and cities. And again the security forces have used live ammunition to try to stop them each time. After Sunday Mass, one young man with gunshot wounds to his chest is pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital direct from a church in Kinshasa.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Wailing).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: His bewildered friends break down and start wailing in distress, vowing to continue the protests against Kabila. The same scenes were witnessed at similar peaceful, Catholic Church-supported, anti-Kabila marches that turned deadly on New Year's Eve and again last month. Opponents blame Kabila for violence and human rights violations in Congo. After 17 years in power and at the end of his presidential mandate, they say he has long overstayed his welcome and must go. But Kabila remains defiant. In his first news conference in more than five years, he sounded increasingly isolated last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOSEPH KABILA: Probably the most important thing is elections. You can organize elections whenever you want - today, tomorrow, day after tomorrow. But what's more important is what happens after election. Do you have kills, or do you have stability, relative stability, in order for the country to go forward?

QUIST-ARCTON: Leading clerics whose church has enormous influence in predominantly Catholic Congo have backed anti-Kabila protests and are telling the president it's time for him to go. Kabila says they shouldn't mix religion and politics. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.