UN chief urges 'restraint' in DR Congo after deadly protest crackdown

Tuesday January 23 2018

DR Congo protests.

Catholic faithfuls take part in a demonstration on December 31, 2017 in Kinshasa to call for DRC President Joseph Kabila to step down. PHOTO | JOHN WESSELS | AFP 

By AFP
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The UN's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for "credible investigations" after at least six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a crackdown on a protest against President Joseph Kabila.

Guterres said the government should "hold those responsible accountable" in a statement issued by his spokesman in New York after live rounds and tear gas were fired to disperse demonstrators in Kinshasa.

The country's powerful Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to enjoy broad credibility nationally, had called for the rallies despite a government ban on all demonstrations.

Guterres "urges the Congolese security forces to exercise restraint", his spokesman said in the statement, and "called upon all concerned to ensure full respect for places of worship".

The UN peacekeeping mission Monusco said six people were killed in Kinshasa and scores injured nationwide in the rallies.

Congolese authorities said two of the deaths were caused by "stray bullets".

Election

Kabila, 46, has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticised for corruption, repression and incompetence.

His constitutional term in office expired in December 2016 but he has stayed on, stoking a bloody spiral of violence.

Under an agreement brokered by the Catholic Church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017.

The authorities later blamed organisational problems for a new delay until December 23, 2018 — a postponement that has angered Western nations, but one that they have reluctantly accepted.