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DR Congo

At least 26 killed during anti-Kabila protests in DRC

Security forces in the DRC reportedly shot dead 26 protesters and arrested scores more Tuesday after President Joseph Kabila failed to step down when his mandate expired.

Gunfire was heard in several districts of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday and 26 people were reportedly killed by security forces. Those killed were protesting President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down after his mandate ended Monday night.

He has stated that the mechanisms were not in place for a fair and balanced election in the country.

In one neighborhood in Kinshasa, protestors played soccer in the street to block traffic amid a heavy presence of police and military.

"Kabila has betrayed our country. He must leave," Jean-Marcel Tshikuku, a mechanic, told the AP. "He announced a new government just at the end of his mandate. It's an insult! We don't want him anymore. We don't want negotiations to resume. He must get out, that's all."

Widespread protests

Scattered protests started on Tuesday but Kinshasa's normally busy boulevards were mostly deserted as pockets of protesting youths were dispersed by volleys of teargas.

"Security forces have responded disproportionately in many cases," Ida Sawyer, the director  of Human Rights Watch for Central Africa, told DW.

"We are reviewing allegations of up to 20 civilians killed, but it (the information) is pretty solid," the UN human rights director for Congo, Jose Maria Arana told Reuters.

"I am gravely concerned by the arrests of those who seek to express their political views," said Maman Sambo Sidikou, who heads the UN mission in Congo (MONUSCO).

In Lubumbashi, a city in the heart of Congo's richest copper mining area, police reportedly fired live bullets to prevent demonstrations.

Demokratische Republik Kongo Joseph Kabila in Bata (Getty Images/AFP/C. De Souza)

President Joseph Kabila's mandate officially ended on December 19

"I think there will be trouble. The people are saying Kabila has to leave," student Joe Doublier told Reuters.

"It's been 16 years and nothing has changed," he said. President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 and took over after his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated.

German aid suspended

The German foreign office announced on Wednesday that Germany has indefinitely postponed talks on development assistance to Congo. The statement comes two days after President Kabila's decision not to relinquish his hold on power. 

"From now on, the Congolese Government's scope for action will be restricted," the statement said. "The negotiations on development cooperation scheduled to take place next year will be postponed indefinitely. The German Government reserves the right to take further steps."

Fears of escalation

Many observers fear that the political unrest could continue in this vast Central African country. Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the main opposition in DRC, took to social media urging supporters to stage peaceful protests. 

"I launch a solemn appeal to the Congolese people to not recognize the illegal and illegitimate authority of Joseph Kabila," Tshisekedi said in a video posted on social media.

The message was not available in the DR Congo because authorities have imposed restrictions on certain social media networks.

Tshisekedi stated that he hopes to continue talks launched by the Catholic Church to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis. Unfortunately, the talks were halted last week.

Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi flanked by supporters.

Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has urged supporters to hold peaceful protests

The opposition is pushing for elections early next year and for a pledge from President Kabila not to stand for office again. Many protesters have reportedly been arrested in the past 24 hours, mostly in the eastern city of Goma, according to human rights groups.

Just 15 minutes before his mandate expired, state television announced that there will be a new cabinet which will be led by the opposition-leaning Prime Minister Samy Badibanga.

"The newscaster announced that Kabila had signed a decree with 74 new ministers who would make up the government of Samy Badibanga," said Ida Sawyer. "But many people saw this announcement as a distraction from all the calls for Kabila to step down," the rights activist added.

 

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