Mon, Jan 01, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Shots fired, Mass dispersed with tear gas in DR Congo

AFP, KINSHASA

Security forces yesterday fired shots into the air and dispersed a Mass with tear gas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DR Congo) capital, Kinshasa, where the Catholic church had called banned marches against Congolose President Joseph Kabila staying in power.

“While we were praying, the soldiers and the police entered the church compound and fired tear gas at the church” where the Mass was being held, a worshiper in the parish of St Michael in the central municipality of Bandalungwa told reporters.

“They dispersed us,” he added.

All the DR Congo’s opposition and civil society groups joined in the march to demand that Kabila leave office immediately and to promise he will not seek to further extend his time in power.

“People fell, first-aiders are resuscitating old ladies who have fallen, but the priest has not stopped saying mass, which continues with Christians who have not fled,” said another parishioner who identified herself as Chantal.

At the Notre-Dame of Congo Cathedral in Gombe municipality in north Kinshasa, security forces also fired tear gas as opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi arrived, reporters said.

The soldiers then entered the compound of the main church of the capital, asking people to leave the premises.

The parish priest asked worshipers to “return to their homes in peace because there is a heavy presence of soldiers and police ready to fire.”

In Kinshasa, Catholics of the “Lay Coordinating Committee” invited worshipers to walk, holding bibles, rosaries and crucifixes, after mass yesterday morning.

They want Kabila to declare publicly that he will not run for another term as president.

Elections had been due to take place by the end of last year under a church-mediated deal aimed at avoiding more violence in a vast, mineral-rich country, which has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The delayed poll is scheduled for Dec. 23, heightening tensions in the restive nation.

Congolese authorities cut off Internet access “for reasons of state security” before the planned march, and security forces were deployed in Kinshasa, reporters said.

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