Congo police disperse banned election protest

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Congolese police violently broke up a banned protest in the capital Kinshasa yesterday, leaving several people wounded, and one opposition leader said more marches were planned against last week’s vote.

Disputes over the December 20 presidential and legislative elections threaten to further destabilise the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is already grappling with a security crisis in eastern areas that has hampered development in the world’s producer of cobalt and other industrial minerals and metals.

Riot police surrounded the headquarters of Martin Fayulu, one of President Felix Tshisekedi’s main challengers, and used tear gas and force to disperse protesters who had gathered for yesterday’s opposition march in defiance of a government ban.

Security forces and people in and around the headquarters lobbed rocks at each other, leading to multiple injuries, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

Fayulu and fellow opposition heavyweight Moise Katumbi condemned what they called the heavy-handedness of the police response.

“A point of no return has just been crossed. This first march will be followed by other actions throughout the country. Cheating, fraud and lying will not pass,” Katumbi said on social media platform X.

His team said separately they did not plan to use legal channels to contest election results, asserting that institutions including the CENI election commission and the Constitutional Court were committed to tipping the vote in Tshisekedi’s favour.

The CENI and Tshisekedi’s government deny the allegations.

Kinshasa police chief Blaise Kilimba Limba defended his forces’ move to close down yesterday’s unauthorised demonstration. He said two police officers had been injured by stones as well as a number of civilians. Fayulu said 11 protesters had been injured.

Attempts to gather elsewhere in the city were rapidly thwarted amid a heavy security presence. Some protesters tried to block roads with burning tires before police intervened.