The arrest of a local cleric in Lubumbashi over incitement provoked protests in Haut-Katanga province.
Daniel Ngoy Mulunda is said to have agitated for secession at the weekend. He was detained on Monday and his house ransacked by intelligence agents in Lubumbashi, southern DRC.
He was due to be transferred to the capital Kinshasa on Monday, when protesters tried to stop the transfer. Gunshots were heard near the airport as police prevented Mulunda’s supporters from reaching the facility.
Mulunda is said to have made disparaging remarks during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of former President Laurent Désiré Kabila, on January 16. He had conducted a service in honour of President Laurent Désiré Kabila, as is customary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He then said he went to Lubumbashi “for peace”, “to appease Katanga”. But he also warned that, "peace and unity cannot be maintained if the authorities do not respect the people of Katanga and especially our leader, former President Joseph Kabila”.
“If the humiliations continue against our leader, against his wife Maman Olive Lembe, Katanga will withdraw from the Congo,” said Mulunda, a former boss of the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).
Mulunda, who has in the past initiated several actions of peace, agitated for the secession of the great area of Katanga, a region of 500,000 km2 which has been divided into four provinces since 2015.
He spoke as his congregation applauded, according to one video recording. He waved a flag recognised as that of the ephemeral Republic of Katanga, which had attempted secession in 1960, just after the proclamation of the independence of the Congo.
The fiery preaching of Ngoy Mulunda, himself a native of Katanga, comes when Joseph Kabila is staying in Lubumbashi, after a coalition his party formed with President Félix Tshisekedi broke down in December.
Tshisekedi has struggled to strengthen institutions and get loyalists. On Saturday, he, alongside Joseph Kabila, celebrated the anniversary of Laurent Désiré Kabila. Laurent Kabila was Joseph’s father.
However, behind this gesture hailed by the leaders of Joseph Kabila's party, the power struggles continue. And the arrest of Ngoy Mulunda may fuel the blaze of Congolese politics. For several days, rumours have swirled of an attack by pro secession activists. Last September, the claims and actions of the separatists caused the shooting to death of about 20 people in Lubumbashi after a clash between the Congolese army, the police and the separatists.
Mulunda chaired the electoral commission in the 2011 elections in which Joseph Kabila was declared winner, despite allegations of irregularities.