Anti-Kabila protesters arrested in DR Congo


Police in Democratic Republic of Congo arrested at least 128 people as they dispersed protests demanding President Joseph Kabila stand down by the end of the year, Human Rights Watch said.

A series of marches across the country called by pro-democracy group Lucha and backed by opposition politicians were mostly snuffed out by heavy police deployments.

A police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Congolese authorities banned opposition demonstrations since last September due to security fears.

Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired last December has fuelled rising militia violence and insecurity in Congo but organised opposition has faltered since the death of his main rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, in February.

Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at US-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement the group confirmed 57 arrests in Goma, 24 in Kinshasa and dozens more in seven other cities. At least 22 of those detained were released by Monday, Sawyer said.

Another rights group, Amnesty International, said more than 100 people were arrested.

The UN Joint Human Rights Office in Congo condemned Monday’s arrests, saying on its Twitter account: “Arbitrary arrests are incompatible with the right to information and right of freedom of assembly guaranteed in DRC Constitution.”

The Association of Online Media in DRC (MILRDC) said in a statement seven journalists were briefly arrested in Kinshasa while covering the aborted march there.

Congo’s electoral commission said last month a vote to replace Kabila will probably not be possible this year.

That would violate a deal struck with the opposition in December that allowed Kabila to stay in office past the end of his second and final constitutional mandate.

Security forces killed dozens of anti-Kabila protesters last year and recent bouts of unrest raised fears of a resurgence of the civil wars that led to the deaths of millions in Congo between 1996 and 2003.