In Summary
  • This is despite appeals notably from the United Nations to respect people's right to protest.
  • Internet links were also down as church and opposition groups defied a ban by authorities to push ahead with the demonstrations.

  • Kabila has been in power since 2001.

KINSHASA

Eight people were killed Sunday and dozens arrested as security forces in DR Congo cracked down on Catholic worshippers who gathered at churches across the country to demand that President Joseph Kabila leaves power, a UN source said.

Despite appeals notably from the United Nations to respect people's right to protest, troops fired tear gas into churches and bullets in the air to break up gatherings at Catholic masses, in one case arresting 12 altar boys leading a protest in Kinshasa.

INTERNET DOWN

Internet links were also down as church and opposition groups defied a ban by authorities to push ahead with the demonstrations.

"Eight deaths — seven in Kinshasa and one in Kananga," in central Democratic Republic of Congo, the source told AFP, adding there had been "82 arrests, including priests, in the capital and "41 in the rest of the country."

In his end-of-year speech, Kabila insisted that the recent publication of an electoral timetable for the December 2018 vote "is driving us irreversibly toward organising elections".

"I invite you to take ownership (of the voting process) and exercise your right through this process," he added in a pre-recorded speech broadcast on state television.

He also seemed to deliver a warning to protesters, urging people to remain "alert" in order to "bar the road to those who [have sought to] use elections as a pretext in recent years, and who today would be tempted to use violence, to stop the ongoing Democratic process and plunge the country into the abyss".

JOURNALISTS THREATENED

At least four of the dead were civilians in the vast, mineral-rich central African country, wracked by tension over delayed elections.

A government statement said one policeman had also been killed.

"Two young people were killed in the parish of Saint-Alphonse de Matete," in the east of the country, while another died in the Masina area, police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu said in a televised statement.

An AFP reporter at a demonstration in the central city of Kananga saw a man shot in the chest by soldiers who opened fire on worshippers gathered for what church leaders said would be a peaceful protest.

The protesters were seeking a promise from Kabila that he will not seek to further extend his time in power in the mostly Catholic former Belgian colony.

DELAYED ELECTIONS

Kabila has been in power since 2001.

Delayed elections to replace him are currently set for December 2018.

The United Nations says dozens of people wee killed during anti-government protests in 2017.

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