20, December 2016
Nine protesters have reportedly been killed in clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, amid rising tensions over the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to quit after the expiration of his term in office. On Tuesday, the United Nations director of human rights in the Central African country announced that there were “solid” reports that 20 civilians had been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in Kinshasa. “On the issue of deaths, it looks bad. We are reviewing allegations of up to 20 civilians killed, but it (the information) is pretty solid,” said Jose Maria Aranaz.
The UN also raised concern earlier on Tuesday over a new wave of detentions in the DRC over Kabila’s refusal. Director of the UN mission in the DR Congo, Maman Sambo Sidikou, announced that his office had documented 113 arrests of opposition leaders and civil society activists, human rights campaigners and journalists by police and intelligence authorities since December 16. “I am gravely concerned by the arrests of those who seek to express their political views,” said Sidikou, who also serves as the UN secretary general’s special representative to the Central African country.
“I urge the national authorities to strictly adhere to their international human rights obligations, to create a climate of political tolerance and respect at this important juncture in the DRC’s history, and to grant full access to United Nations personnel to all detention centers,” he added. News outlets reported sounds of gunfire in the country’s two largest cities as the opposition leader urged citizens to reject Kabila, whose second and final term expired on Tuesday with no indication pointing to his intent to quit or hold new polls.
As fears grew about the eruption of new violence across the country, gunfire rang out in the capital as well as the second largest city of Lubumbashi. Moreover, dozens of troop carriers patrolled the populous capital of nearly 10 million people and police officers and paramilitary forces have remained deployed in other cities since Sunday. Meanwhile, as the deadline of Kabila’s end-of-mandate approached on Tuesday, crowds had gathered before midnight Monday to blow whistles and beat on improvised drums, calling for the president to step down.
State television overnight announced the establishment of a new government in line with an October deal between the ruling party and tiny fringe opposition groups to leave Kabila in office pending elections in April 2018. The main opposition bloc, however, rejects the plan. The new cabinet will be led by Sami Badibanga, a defector from the party of the mainstream opposition party led by 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi.