Congo Police Open Fire on Church-Led Protest, Kill 2 Activists, Wound 47

Policemen react after a protester threw a stone from Notre Dame Cathedral compound in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on February 25, 2018. |

At least two anti-government protesters were killed and dozens of others were injured by security forces during a nationwide protest against Congo President Joseph Kabila that was organized by Christian leaders, the United Nations announced. 

Leila Zerrougui, the head of Congo's U.N. mission, said Sunday that 47 people were injured and more than 100 were arrested across the country for participating in a protest organized by the Catholic Church and other church groups to call for the government to organize a long overdue presidential election.

Zerrougui, according to Reuters, confirmed that two demonstrators were killed in the capital of Kinshasa. Only one death had previously been reported throughout the day.

The brother of the first known deceased victim, who chose not to be named, told the wire service that the police officer "shot my brother at close range."

According to Reuters, the watchdog group Human Rights Watch has identified the slain activist as 36-years-old Rossy Mukendi, who is an assistant university professor.

Witnesses responsible for bringing Mukendi's body to a nearby hospital told Reuters that he was shot by police outside of a church in Kinshasa's Lemba neighborhood.

"Since 7:00 am we have received three injured people from the Catholic march," Dr. Francois Kajingulu from the St Joseph de Limete hospital told AFP. "Two were seriously injured and one died from a bullet wound in the chest."

The protests come as Sudan's 2006 Constitution states that five-year presidential terms are only renewable once. Kabila, who has been office since 2001, was the first president elected under these rules and his second term was to end in 2016.

Thanks to political negotiations, Kabila was allowed to stay in power on the condition that an election be held at the end of 2017.

Although the government claims to be planning an election in 2018, Germany's public international broadcast outlet Deutsche Welle reports that "financial and logistical constraints could imperil that plan as well."

The organizers of Sunday's demonstration are calling for a prompt election.

"Our people no longer believe in the political will of our current leaders to ensure a peaceful transition of power," the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), one of the faith groups calling for the protests, said in a statement before the march.

In a statement released Sunday, the CLC said that "there will be no respite for the government in place as long as we have not recovered our dignity and our liberty."

The protests spread throughout various parts of the country.

Although the demonstrations were pre-planned, the government forbid such protests from taking place.

At least two marchers were shot by police in the northeastern city of Kisangani.

According to AFP, three priests were arrested for leading a march in the Saint Pierre de Wagenia district in east Kisangani.

In Kisangani, hundreds marched but quickly retreated into a Cathedral when police used tear gas and began firing bullets.

Tear gas was also reportedly used on protesters in cities throughout the country, such as Kikwit in the west and Goma in the east.

According to Deutsche Welle, government forces killed as many as 12 protesters in the previous two recent anti-Kabila demonstrations.

Earlier this year, it was reported that security forces in Congo had fired bullets and used tear gas on protesters inside of churches. Eight Christians were killed and at least 82 were arrested. 

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