* A special report from our consultant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo *
Eastern Congo May 26 – Masses of demonstrators, mainly made up of civil society organizations and opposition parties’ supporters, joined in the streets this morning to protest against a likely third term by President Joseph Kabila.
People were protesting nationwide against the May 11th ruling by Congo’s highest court that would allow the President to remain in power if elections, scheduled to take place in November, are not held.
Many Congolese have been waiting for this date for quite some time. Wondering, “Was it going to happen? May be yes, may be no.”
Protests were authorized by the power holders in some cities, while in others it was banned. In cities like Bukavu, the capital city of the South Kivu Province, it was authorized, but in Goma, the capital city of North Kivu, it was banned. Kinshasa, the Capital city of the Country, the protest was authorized but in Mbuji-Mayi, it was not.
The protesters were voicing up and demanding the November 2016 election take place. In Bukavu—South Kivu you could see many protesters holding signs with different messages:
“Joseph Kabila, your time is over, leave power, you have no right to a third term.”
“Go away President Kabila, respect the Congo Constitution”
“December 2016 is time for Freedom, Peace and Development”
“Good bye Joseph Kabila, Enough is Enough”
In Goma, protesters were tear gassed by the police forces. In response there was an immediate stone-throwing by protesters who burned tires and blocked streets with large rocks. Unlike what happened in Bukavu, the protesters in Goma encountered a robust resistance from the police, which resulted in clashes and barricades being set up. Some demonstrators were arrested. The number of arrested, injured, and killed is not yet clear, but some reports say two people were killed, one police officer and one protestor.
In Bukavu, the protests were peaceful. Only in some points downtown did protestors encounter light resistance, but the masses of demonstrators were so enormous that there was no way to stop them. They moved forward to their final destination, which was the Governor’s Office, to read their open letter to President Kabila. The letter asked Kabila to abide by the constitution, leave office in December, and reiterated that he has no right to an unconstitutional third term.
In Kinshasa, while the march began peacefully, security forces soon intervened saying opposition supporters started straying from the approved route. When the protesters continued to advance, police started firing tear gas, scattering protesters into different directions on side streets before some attempted to continue the demonstration along the previously agree upon route.
In Lubumbashi, a heavy deployment of riot police was visible in the streets of the southern mining hub of Lubumbashi, where supporters of opposition presidential candidate Moise Katumbi have repeatedly clashed with police this month.
Stand with the people of Congo:
Click here to sign our petition to President Obama calling for additional pressure to be placed on Kabila to step down and allow for democratic change in the DRC.