Serious allegations against Congolese government – More violence than under dictator Mobutus
At least eight killed in demonstrations by Christians in Congo (Press Release)
Following bloody crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations by Catholic Christians in Congo, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) accuses the Congolese government of ignoring the peoples’ freedom of expression and freedom of religion – and of excessive violence against the civilian population. “Security forces who deliberately prevent believers from participating in holy masses, police forces who attack churches with tear gas and arrest priests and ministers… Congo’s President Joseph Kabila is about to lose all his credibility,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on New Year’s Day. “The violence against peaceful Christian protesters is worse than in the days of the dreaded dictator Mobutu.” At least eight people lost their lives and 82 people were arrested during the crackdown on New Year’s Eve. There were two priests and 12 acolytes among the arrested.
The Catholic Lay Committee (CLC), which had organized the nationwide protests of Catholic Christians, condemned the “inappropriate use of force against peaceful demonstrators”. “I can’t understand why peaceful people should experience such excessive measures of repression,” said CLC spokeswoman Leonie Kandolo. The CLC claims that at least 10 people died in the police operation against the demonstration, which had been banned by the authorities.
After mass, the Christians had gathered to demonstrate for a complete implementation of an agreement that had been met by the bishops of the country in December 2016, providing that Kabilas should resign in 2017 and that the incumbent president should not run for office again. However, Kabila, whose term in office had ended on December 20, 2016, will not stand down. Last week, he had announced new elections for December 23, 2018.
The Catholics in the community of St. Michael in Bandalungwa district (in the center of the capital, Kinshasa) were shocked by the use of tear gas against their church mass. According to eyewitnesses, several elderly members of the religious community had fallen unconscious and had to be treated by paramedics. But despite the police intervention, the pastor of the community had continued his Mass. However, in the Notre-Dame du Congo Cathedral in the district of Lingwala in the north of Kinshasa, a Mass had to be discontinued after policemen used tear gas in the church’s anteroom upon the arrival of an opposition politician.