In Summary
  • Church and opposition groups defied a ban by authorities to push ahead with demonstrations, demanding that President Joseph Kabila promise he will not seek to further extend his term.
  • Kabila has been in power since 2001. Elections to replace him have been delayed and are currently set for December 2018.

KINSHASA

Congolese security forces fired tear gas to break up a Catholic mass on Sunday and arrested Catholic altar boys who were protesting against President Joseph Kabila, AFP reporters saw.

Some officers fired shots in the air in the capital Kinshasa as church and opposition groups defied a ban by authorities to push ahead with the demonstrations.

ELECTIONS

The protesters were demanding that Kabila promise he will not seek to further extend his time in power in Democratic Republic of Congo, a mostly Catholic former Belgian colony.

Kabila has been in power since 2001. Elections to replace him have been delayed and are currently set for December 2018.

Impatience boiled over on Sunday, with all the vast central African country's main opposition and civil society groups joining in the call for peaceful protests.

Protests against Joseph Kabila.

Members of Congolese associations calling Joseph Kabila to step down as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, take part in a demonstration on December 30, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. AFP | PHOTO | BELGA | NICOLAS MAETERLINCK | BELGIUM OUT

MASS

A churchgoer who asked not to be named told AFP that officers dispersed worshippers from a mass in the parish of St. Michael's in central Kinshasa on Sunday morning.

"While we were praying, the soldiers and the police entered the church compound and fired teargas at the church," he said.

Another parishioner who identified herself as Chantal said: "People fell, first-aiders are resuscitating old ladies who have fallen" — but added that the priest carried on saying mass.

Officers later detained 12 altar boys dressed in their liturgical robes outside one church as they led a protest march.

PROTESTS

Earlier at the Notre-Dame of Congo Cathedral in Gombe, north Kinshasa, security forces also fired teargas as opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi arrived, AFP journalists saw.

The parish priest asked worshippers to "return to their homes in peace because there is a heavy presence of soldiers and police ready to fire".

In Kinshasa, Catholics of the "Lay Coordinating Committee" had invited worshippers to walk, holding bibles, rosaries and crucifixes, after mass on Sunday.

Page 1 of 2