DRC: Protesters killed in anti-Kabila protests

Catholics took part in a demonstration against President Joseph Kabila on December 31 in Kinshasa but it descended into a bloody crackdown by the authorities

3 killed, more wounded in anti-Kabila protests

At least six people were killed and 49 injured after Congolese security forces opened fire on demonstrators demanding the ouster of long-time President Joseph Kabila in the capital Kinshasa, the United Nations said Sunday.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Kinshasa demanding that President Joseph Kabila step down.

"I ask the authorities to avoid repressing the march", Cheikh Ali Mwinyi M'Kuu, legal representative of the Muslim community, told AFP on Saturday.

Congolese police said that two people had been killed and a number of police officers wounded.

One of those who died was a 16-year-old girl standing by a church door, AFP reported.

"An armoured vehicle passed in front of the church".

Sunday's bloody crackdown comes three weeks after a similar march on New Year's Eve ended in deadly violence, during which organisers said a dozen people were killed. "They began firing live bullets, I protected myself", Sondji said by telephone.

The widespread marches had been called for by the country's Catholic Church, which appealed for a large but peaceful demonstration.

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As has become typical, the government cut internet, email and social media messaging networks in the capital in the run-up to the demonstration, and security forces threw up roadblocks on major roads into the city.

The Congolese authorities, however, banned the marches and no formal permission was given.

"The objective of the march was to claim effective and efficient implementation of the agreement of December 31, 2016, " said Nshole of the Sunday protests.

"If they decide to repress, there will be no peace".

A committee of the powerful Catholic Church had called for nationwide protests to force Kabila to respect the terms of a December 31, 2016; mediation that mandates Kabila to step down at the end of his tenure - previous year. "But if they let the march take place, they will respect the constitution and peace will prevail", he said.

The Roman Catholic Church has emerged as a harness for opposition to Kabila's efforts to stay in power with no mandate, while his political opposition remains feeble and fragmented.

The agreement at the heart of the protests ¬- facilitated by Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) mediators - allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term and stipulated that peaceful, credible and inclusive elections would be organized in the DRC by the end of December 2017. The committee has called for the release of political prisoners, to allow the return of exiled political opponents and, above all, a guarantee that Kabila will stand down.

The authorities later said organisational problems meant that the vote would be held on December 23, 2018 - a postponement that has angered Western nations, but one that they have reluctantly accepted.

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