Church-Backed Protests Turn Deadly in Central Africa

by David Nussman  •  •  February 27, 2018   

D.R. Congo sees multiple deaths during anti-Kabila protests promoted by Catholics

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KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo ( - Arrests, injuries and deaths afflict Catholic-led protests as people march against an African dictator.

Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down from his position as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016. But he is still in power, and many citizens are taking to the streets to protest.

The nation's Catholic bishops and laity took a leading role in organizing the anti-Kabila protests.

Sunday morning, the demonstrations were set to begin after Mass at churches in the capital of Kinshasa. But police officers were armed and ready outside many churches.

Officers used tear gas and even live gunfire. So far, there have been four deaths, resulting from law enforcement's harsh response to the protests. One protester was shot and killed in Kinshasa, while another was killed in the city of Mbandaka.

In addition, 47 protesters were reported injured and about 100 arrests were made.

This was the latest in a series of Catholic-led protests against the administration's recent decision to delay elections for another year. Catholic anti-Kabila protests like this have been occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a little over a month now.

Kabila took charge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo following his father's death in 2001. His presidency technically should have ended in 2016, but the government and the opposition have yet to agree on terms for the next election. Financial problems have also been cited to explain the repeated delays.

In addition to the Catholic-backed protests, Kabila's refusal to step down has also spurred violent uprisings in some parts of the country. Thousands have been killed or displaced as a result of armed conflict in the Kasai and Kivu regions.

The Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference has insisted that Kabila not illegally engage in another bid for the presidency.

Are we now living in an open prison?

Congolese Cdl. Laurent Monsengwo of the archdiocese of Kinshasa told news outlet Reuters, "We were dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades and live bullets. We have again seen deaths, injuries, priests being arrested and the theft of citizens' property."

The cardinal also said, "How can you kill men, women, children, youths and old people, all chanting religious songs, carrying Bibles, Rosaries and crucifixes? Are we now living in an open prison?"

Among those arrested during Sunday's protests were several Catholic priests and even a handful of altar boys.

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