By Paschal Norbert
KINSHASA, MAY 23, 2023 (CISA) – “The height of everything is the despicable and savage repression that the police and their accomplice militia inflicted on the demonstrators, including minors found on their way. In carrying out their macabre work, they did not hesitate to fire live ammunition, even targeting the vehicle of a political leader,” said Msgr Donatien Nshole, Secretary-General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) in a press conference on May 22, 2023.
According to Fr Nshole, CENCO had deployed monitors to follow the peaceful marches organized on Saturday, May 20, in Kinshasa by the political formations of both the ruling majority and opposition, and civil society groups, demonstrating over alleged irregularities in voter registration ahead of the December 2023 elections.
“CENCO deplores the fact that the Government of the city of Kinshasa authorized these marches on the same day and practically at the same time, especially the fact of having verbally changed the route planned by the Political Opposition barely 24 hours before. Which borders on a provocation insofar as this change was likely to disrupt the planning of the organizers,” lamented Fr Nshole.
According to the Secretary-General, the protest was already tensed and inflamed and the security forces only exacerbated the situation by lobbing teargas and engaging the protesters in endless running battles in the streets of the capital.
“CENCO is disgusted to see that many demonstrators marched with bladed weapons (machetes, sticks, stones, etc.) in full view of the police without being arrested. Worse still, some elements of the National Police carried the same tools of violence that they visibly exchanged with individuals in civilian clothes, some of whom wore the BSU or Special Brigade of the UDPS, Force of Progress. With such publicly displayed complicity, one wonders if this Special Brigade is not an officially maintained militia,” stated the papal chaplain.
He said, “CENCO condemns in the strongest terms all these monstrosities described above as well as the violence that followed, wherever it comes from. It expects concrete actions from the competent authorities, beyond the media promises of investigations and justice (to which we are accustomed and which often remain unfulfilled), to put out of harm’s way this whole series of easily identifiable thugs. We greatly need law enforcement at the front to secure the country and not to bully the population in the cities.”
In a rallying call to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), CENCO appealed to the people “not to give in to fear in the face of organized barbarism to intimidate them,” avowing that “If nothing is done to guarantee his fundamental rights, he will soon have to exercise his power to punish all the incompetent.”
About a dozen protesters were arrested by the security forces in the May 20 demonstrations, which were called for by opposition leaders: Martin Fayulu, who came second in the 2018 presidential election, and Moise Katumbi, a millionaire businessman and former regional governor.
Four opposition leaders including Fayulu and Katumbi are expected to run in the December 20, 2023, General Elections, in which President Felix Tshisekedi is expected to seek a second term.