Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | DR Congo’s minister for human rights on Tuesday called for the prosecution of police who opened fire on anti-government protestors at the weekend, in a crackdown condemned by the EU and UN.
Six people were killed, scores injured and dozens arrested, according to the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, when security forces opened fire on Catholic-organised rallies against President Joseph Kabila on Sunday. The government has put the death toll at two.
“Those responsible for these acts must be punished and prosecuted by Congolese justice,” Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa said in an interview with the French station Radio France Internationale (RFI) while on a visit to Paris.
Mushobekwa, asked about the particular case of a young girl gunned down at the entrance to a church in Kinshasa’s Kintambo district, said: “I have no explanation. I don’t understand why the security forces decided to open fire. Those behind these acts will not remain unpunished.”
She also hit out at abuse of UN observers by the security forces, as reported by the United Nations.
“The government cannot tolerate aggression against UN personnel, who are there to support us.”
In Brussels, the European Union on Tuesday said the “reprehensible acts contrast with the government’s declared undertaking to create the right conditions for holding elections.”
It called for “an effective judicial inquiry” to bring those responsible to book. The statement echoed a similar appeal on Monday by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The government on Tuesday blamed “vandals and bystanders” who had attacked the security forces and thrown stones at their vehicles.
“Inquiries are underway to establish responsibility in connection with the recorded deaths,” according to a government report read by acting spokesman Felix Kabange Numbi.
Kabila, 46, has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticised for corruption, repression and incompetence.
His constitutional term in office expired in December 2016 but he has stayed on, stoking a bloody spiral of violence.
Under a deal brokered by the powerful Catholic Church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017.
The authorities then postponed the election until December 23 this year, citing what they said were logistical problems in preparing for the vote.
The delay, coupled with the mounting violence, has placed Kabila on collision course with the church, which has a prominent role in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to its educational and social care work.
Sunday’s marches urged Kabila to public declare that he would not stand again in December.