Demand Justice For Congolese Civilians Brutalized by the Kabila Regime
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The Lay Coordinating Committee of the Christian Catholic Church in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) called for a national march for peace and justice on Sunday, December 31st 2017. Civil society groups, all categories of catholic parishioners, youth formations, faith leaders, and the political opposition responded to the call and joined the march, in their thousands, accordingly with the DRC constitution.
The primary objective of this peaceful march was to demand that Joseph Kabila - who has overstayed his constitutional mandate, which expired on December 19, 2016 - to declare that he will not run in the next elections. In addition, the marchers called for the unconditional release of political prisoners, the return of exiled political figures, opening of media that have been shuttered, along with a number of other demands to ultimately ease the tense political climate in the DRC.
The peaceful marchers were met with lethal force from the Congolese government, represented by the police, secret service agents in civil clothes and mostly the army.
Before even the march started, on the night of December 30th December, the government put trucks full of soldiers in the streets in key cities, especially the capital, Kinshasa. Most of the soldiers were positioned in front of the churches from 21h30 on Saturday night . The government also set-up roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the city and in some instances placed locks on church doors so that parishioners could not gain entry or leave the parishes on Sunday after the mass. In addition, the government ordered the telecommunication companies and/or service providers to shut down the entire Internet connection and SMS services. Some youth leaders were already targeted through social media mobilization and arrested on the evening of December 30th.
On Sunday, December 31st, the Kabila regime unleashed a brutal barrage of raw, naked force. Parishioners marching and singing peacefully as well as praying, were met with batons, tear gas fired inside churches, stun grenades, live bullets. Elderly parishioners, particularly women, were left in tears, bruised and traumatized. Twelve altar boys were arrested, and pastors were beaten and jailed. The brutality and massive demonstration of force as well as sheer senseless violence against unarmed civilians left little doubt that grassroots populations are being held hostage under occupation by a cruel, illegal and illegitimate military regime. According to the organizers of the march (The Lay Coordinating Committee) about a dozen lives were lost, several dozens were jailed and several hundred were beaten and more were injured.
These figures provide a glimpse into what transpired on Sunday the 31st December 2017 in the DRC:
“We can only denounce, condemn and stigmatize the actions of the supposedly valiant men in uniform, which are, unfortunately, nothing more, nothing less than barbarism” Lauernt Monsengwo, Archbishop of Kinshasa
"Kabila and his henchmen have, once again, shown to the world that they are nothing but bloodthirsty criminals who have neither the fear of God nor the sacred." Martin Fayulu, Opposition Politician
"How can this be they are coming and shooting on people, it is unbelievable. We have come here to pray, to pray for our nation" Serge Mutumbo, March participant
"We confronted the soldiers (especially foreigners) who despised us, whipped us, kicked us and fired live ammunition. It was terrible, but God protected us." March Participant
"We came to the house of our Lord with respect to pray and ask for peace in the DRC, however we were attacked inside and subjected to violence" cried an elderly Congolese woman holding her Bible in her hand.
The President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat said he "deeply deplores the loss of human life during the march" and "calls for a focus on all the excess force carried out by the security forces so that the perpetrators can be held accountable."
Join us in demanding:
1. An international investigation into the violent repression of unarmed civilians
2. Perpetrators from the Kabila regime be held accountable and brought to justice
3. Maximum pressure by international bodies (African Union and United Nations) to be placed on the Kabila regime to cease repression of Congolese civilians who exercise their constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate peacefully.
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