Protesters are demanding that President Joseph Kabila – whose expected term of office expired more than a year ago – should step down.
Police have used tear gas to disperse protesters in Kinshasa, where UN peacekeepers have been deployed. Similar demonstrations three weeks ago led to a number of deaths.
A spokesman for the UN mission to the country said about 50 people were injured in Sunday’s clashes and that dozens had been arrested.
The widespread marches had been called for by the country’s Catholic Church, which appealed for a large but peaceful demonstration. The Congolese authorities, however, banned the marches and no formal permission was given. On Saturday evening, internet access in the capital Kinshasa was cut.
Police warned that they would not tolerate “any attempt to disturb public order.”
President Kabila has been in power since 2001, and was supposed to step down after his second and final term came to an end in 2016. Under a deal reached more than a year ago, he was due to step down by the end of 2017 – but that has not happened.
The country’s powerful Catholic Church has been a voice of opposition to Mr Kabila. The Church also called for the demonstrations in late December which led to at least seven deaths, according to UN peacekeepers.
Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested 10 priests and more than 200 protesters over Sunday’s demonstrations demanding President Joseph Kabila leave power, a rights group has been quoted as saying.
The Catholic Church had called for demonstrations against the leader, whose constitutional mandate ended in 2016.
Six people were killed in the capital, Kinshasa, when police used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protesters, which also took place in other parts of the country.
“We have registered the case of 10 priests who have been arrested, including Father Dieudonne Mukinayi of Saint Christophe Parish in Binza Ozone. He is detained in a residence of a government official alongside eight parishioners,” Georges Kapiamba of the NGO Congolese Association for Justice told the UN-sponsored Radio Okapi.
“According to information we have, they were or continue to be mistreated. Their clothes have been torn. Two nuns are missing, 257 demonstrators have been arrested and are being held in various cells in Kinshasa,” Kapiamba added.
The Lay Coordination Committee, an arm of the Catholic Church, had called for nationwide demonstrations to push for the implementation of a political agreement signed between the government and the opposition on 31 December 2016.
Under the deal brokered by the Catholic Church, Kabila was to organise elections in 2017.
Author: Staff Writer