International

Congo’s bishops criticize excessive force to break up protests

By Catholic News Service
January 25, 2018

A priest and other demonstrators chant slogans during a protest organized by Catholic activists in Kinshasa, Congo. At least six people were killed during demonstrations across the country against delayed elections and Congolese President Joseph Kabila. (CNS photo/Kenny Katombe, Reuters)

KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) — Congo’s bishops condemned the “excessive and disproportionate use of force” by security forces that dispersed protesters demanding President Joseph Kabila hold fresh elections in line with a church-brokered accord.

In a Jan. 22 report, the bishops conference said “peaceful marches” had been “violently repressed and smothered with tear gas and bursts of fire” in 95 Catholic parishes, leaving six dead and 127 injured, some by police bullets.

It added that peaceful protests had been prevented after Masses in more than 60 other parishes, while 210 Catholics had been detained; most were freed after a few hours.

“Once again, the church deplores the excessive and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators with nothing in their hands but Bibles, rosaries and palms,” the bishops said.

In a “technical note” Jan. 22, the Vatican Embassy in Kinshasa said security forces had surrounded parishes, used tear gas and “shots with real bullets” in Kisangani, Goma, Bukavu, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi. It added that two Congolese police had been killed by stray bullets in Kinshasa, and said “at least one priest” had been wounded and “at least three others” arrested in the capital. 

A spokesman for the U.N. Stabilization Mission confirmed the organization had recorded six deaths and dozens of injuries in Kinshasa when demonstrations were staged after Masses Jan. 21. The church’s lay coordinating committee organized the demonstrations.

Agence France-Presse reported a 24-year-old female religious novice had been killed when police fired on St. Francis de Sales Church in the capital’s Kintambo suburb. It added that similar violence had erupted outside Notre Dame Cathedral and in many of the city’s 160 Catholic parishes, as protesters, accompanied by clergy, waved crucifixes and rosaries.

The Catholic Church makes up half the 67.5 million inhabitants of Congo and has pressed Kabila to step down since his second and final term expired more than a year ago.

Topics:

  • congo

Advertising