An anti-government rally in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday was short-lived when police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters seeking to defy a ban on public protests and rally against plans by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate this year.
In support of the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Ettiene Tshisekedi, several of his party supporters were still seen outside his house after security officers in riot gear and armoured trucks earlier dispersed several of them. But they’ve sworn to devise other means to get the message across.
“Now that it (the demonstration) has been banned we are just waiting for orders from our president (Tshisekedi). If he tells us to go home.we will go Its all going to come to an end on December 19. We are really determined,” said party member, Jonathan Mutanda.
“You know we face no choice with this situation. The government has decided to come out in force, it is using weapons and the police and the army and now we have to think about what we do. Because we face a regime that is determined to muscle the opposition, to scare and terrorize the Congolese people,” added Jean Marc Kabund, Secretary General of the party.
The ban was imposed in September amid public discontent over a delayed presidential elections, which resulted into a series of often violent demonstrations.
A group of United Nations human rights experts described the ban as “unjustified” calling on Congolese authorities to revoke the prohibition.
In a release issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, the experts added that “the protest ban and the restrictive tone of the National Dialogue agreement are both disturbing signs that democratic space is rapidly dissipating in the DRC, with human rights organizations and opposition parties bearing the brunt of the repression.”