Congolese security forces kill three while dispersing anti-Kabila protest

DRC protests

Congo-Kinshasa: Anti-Kabila Protests Turn Deadly in Democratic Republic of Congo

Anger has been building against Kabila since he refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016, triggering street protests in which scores have been killed in Kinshasa, and emboldening a plethora of armed rebel groups upcountry.

Amid reports that pro-democracy activism in the Democratic Republic of Congo is feeling the lash from the unpopular government of Joseph Kabila who is under pressure to hand over power as the Constitution requires, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged Congolese security forces "to exercise restraint and to uphold the Congolese people's right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly".

Also the Chairperson of the AUC Mahamat encouraged the Congolese "stakeholders" to fully honour the commitments entered into, on the December 31, 2016, in order to consolidate the gains made and deepen democracy in the country.

Of the two killed according to the authorities' toll, one was shot at close range by a police officer, the presidency's spokesman Yvon Ramazani said in a call to AFP.

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

Police fired live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators who marched after church services.

Sunday's bloody crackdown comes three weeks after a similar march on New Year's Eve ended in deadly violence, during which organisers said a dozen people were killed.

"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.

"We applaud Congolese citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble peacefully in support of the full implementation of the [agreement]", the United States and British embassies said in a joint statement.

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

There was a heavy police presence on the streets of the capital with security forces firing teargas at demonstrators after the protest was banned by the authorities and the government blocked access to the internet.

The Congolese authorities, however, banned the marches and no formal permission was given.

The country's powerful Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to nationally enjoy broad credibility, condemned what it called "barbarism".

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

Kabila, who came to power after the 2001 assassination of his father, was also supposed to allow elections to be held, according to the agreement between opposition parties and him.

Under a deal mediated between the church and Kabila's opponents, the president was to step down at the end of last year, paving the way for an election early this year.

The authorities said later that organisational problems meant the vote would be held only on December 23.

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