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At least 22 killed in anti-government protests in Congo
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 21 - 12 - 2016


At least 22 people are dead after anti-government
protests in various cities in Congo, with more than 275 arrested,
Congolese police reported on Wednesday, according to dpa.
The deaths occurred Tuesday as demonstrators clashed with police to protest President Joseph Kabila's plan to stay in power after his second mandate expired Monday at midnight.
Jose Maria Aranaz, UN human rights director for the central African country, had earlier spoken of 19 people killed and 45 injured just in the capital, Kinshasa.
Human Rights Watch researcher Ida Sawyer tweeted earlier that 26 people had been killed in Kinshasa, Lumumbashi, Matadi and Boma.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in Kinshasa on Wednesday, though the city appeared generally calm.
Clashes between demonstrators and police were reported in the second-largest city, Lumumbashi, while the pro-democracy group La Lucha said 18 of its activists had been arrested in Goma in the east.
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) criticized the "disproportionate use of violence" by the Congolese security forces.
It also accused them of using lethal weapons against protesters.
Police said emergency measures would stay in place until after the upcoming Christmas holidays. Kabila would normally have relinquished power Monday at midnight, but elections that had been planned for November were postponed to April 2018. Logistical problems were cited.
Most of the opposition regards the postponement as a ploy to allow Kabila to stay in power beyond the two terms allowed by the constitution.
Negotiations were due to restart Wednesday between the government and the main opposition parties, which reject a transitional government formed by the ruling coalition and smaller opposition parties.
The Congolese embassy in South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria, meanwhile announced that it would close until next year after being stoned by Congolese demonstrators on Tuesday, the website Eyewitness News reported.
Several protesters were reportedly injured by rubber bullets fired by South African police.
Pope Francis renewed his earlier appeal to the Congolese, expressing hope that "in this delicate moment of their history, may they be artisans of reconciliation and peace." "May those who are in positions of political responsibility listen to the voice of their conscience, learn to see the cruel sufferings of their fellow citizens and have at heart the common good," the pontiff added.
Observers fear increasing unrest in Congo, which has been unstable since the fall of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, with dozens of armed groups currently vying for power in the mineral-rich east of the country.


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