By John Waters
On 25th February two people were killed and dozens injured in clashes with police and military, during a protest march in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another person was killed in a similar march in the city of Mbandaka.
The march was in protest at proposals for the President of the Country, Joseph Kabila, to serve a third term in office. This is currently forbidden, under the country’s constitution. Over 3 million people are estimated to have marched on the capital, as well as a number of other provincial cities. Police deployed onto the streets fired tear gas as well as warning shots in order to disperse the protesters.
Lay Coordination Committee
Many of the protesters are Catholics, belonging to a group called the Lay Coordination Committee, which has strong links with the Catholic church in the country. The committee produced a statement on the march saying "The sacrifice of the people killed yesterday for the triumph of freedom in our country will not be in vain. To this macabre budget must be added several dozen wounded, arrests, desecration of Churches and victims of aggression and brutality by the police and militias. The condemnation is firm for this unjustifiable behaviour in the face of a people who manifest peacefully with rosaries, bibles, crosses and olive branches in their hands"
The committee went on to praise the behaviour of many ordinary Congolese people in “their struggle for our common destiny.” They also petitioned the police to make a commitment to further protection for the population, saying "There will be no truce for power until we have regained our dignity and our freedom."
Joseph Kabila has served as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2006. He is a former Chief of Land Forces in the Army and the son of former President of the Congo Laurent-Desire Kabila. He succeeded his Father as President of the Congo after his Father was assassinated in 2001 and was involved in negotiations to end the Second Congo War in 2004. He was permitted to retain power when the new constitution was drawn up in 2006. His re-election in 2011 was widely disputed due to allegations of irregularities with votes.
In December 2016, Kabila’s spokesman estimated that elections for a new President would not take place until April 2018.