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13.07.2020 Congo

Thousands in DR Congo capital defy protest ban

By AFP
Under pressure: DR Congo Felix Tshisekedi has yet to announce whether he will approve the contested appointment of Ronsard Malonda as head of the electoral commission.  By Tobias SCHWARZ (AFP)
LISTEN JUL 13, 2020
Under pressure: DR Congo Felix Tshisekedi has yet to announce whether he will approve the contested appointment of Ronsard Malonda as head of the electoral commission. By Tobias SCHWARZ (AFP)

Thousands of protestors rallied in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa on Monday, four days after five people were killed in banned demonstrations over the choice of a new election chief.

Protestors gathered in Boulevard Lumumba, one of the city's main avenues, in the presence of former warlord and opposition chief Jean-Pierre Bemba, an AFP reporter saw.

Security forces using tear gas dispersed other protests in the eastern city of Bukavu and in the central city of Kananga, AFP journalists there said.

The marches were triggered by a decision by the National Assembly -- dominated by supporters of former president Joseph Kabila -- to appoint Ronsard Malonda as chairman of the independent national electoral commission, CENI.

Pro-democracy campaigners say Malonda, currently CENI's secretary-general, has played a historic role in rigging elections in favour of Kabila, who was succeeded in January last year by Felix Tshisekedi, son of a historic opposition leader.

Monday's rally was called by the main alliance of opposition parties, Lamuka.

Protests last Thursday, staged by Tshisekedi's own party, the Union for Democracy and Progress (UDPS), sparked a crackdown that led to the death of two protestors in Kinshasa and three in Lubumbashi in the southeast of the country, according to interior ministry figures.

Twenty police were injured in Kinshasa, two of them seriously, the ministry said.

The protests are unfolding while Tshisekedi has yet to announce whether he will approve Malonda as CENI chief.

Tshisekedi told a cabinet meeting that he could understand anger over "irregularities" in the choice of the new CENI boss, but that he also condemned violence.

The authorities have banned rallies under emergency measures to combat coronavirus.

A third round of marches has been scheduled for July 19 by Catholic and citizens' groups.

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