Congolese protesters clash with Belgian police outside DRC embassy
Dozens of protesters clashed with Belgian police outside the DRC embassy in Brussels on Monday (December 19) on the sidelines of a demonstration organized to condemn Joseph Kabila’s plans to stay in office past the end of his term.
Protesters threw rocks at anti-riot policemen who retaliated with pepper spray. Police also used a water cannon at least three times at protesters.
Some of them played drums and chanted, while others waved red cards telling Kabila to go, as time ticked down to the official close of his mandate at midnight.
Members of the Congolese community in Belgium, DRC’s former colonial ruler, responded to a call made in social media to march from Matonge, an African area of Brussels named after a district of Kinshasa, to the European institution.
Opposition activists have accused Kabila of trying to cling to power as the country’s president by letting his term run out without an election in place to choose a successor.
The government and elections officials have blamed logistical and financial problems for the delay in the vote, currently scheduled for April 2018. Some opposition leaders have agreed Kabila can remain in office until that date. The constitutional court has also ruled that Kabila, leader since his father was assassinated in 2001, can stay on.
But the main opposition bloc rejects the deal as a ploy, though it said it would not call protests. Talks mediated by the Catholic church failed to reach a compromise.
DRC has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.
Diplomats fear any escalation could trigger a conflict like the 1996 to 2003 wars that killed millions, sucked in neighbouring armies and saw armed groups clash over DRC’s mineral wealth and use mass rape as a strategic weapon.
Protesters have also gathered in the DRC capital Kinshasa defying a ban on demonstrations.
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