DRC: "They came with the intention to do harm." Brutal repression of peaceful protests

President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, was supposed to hand over power to his successor after his two term constitutional mandates in 2016. Presidential election was supposed to be held in November 2016 but the authorities failed to organize elections for over one year. Protests against the delays in organizing the elections are constantly met with brutal repression by the security forces.

On according to which the government was to organize elections by December 2017. In addition, the government was supposed to implement confidence building measures including the release of and re-opening of opposition leaning media houses. But DRC authorities failed to implement this agreement.

Since December 2017, the Lay Coordination Committee, a group affiliated to the Catholic Church, has carried out peaceful protests once a month, after Sunday mass to demand the implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement.  

Congregants start a peaceful protests carrying palms and an altar boys carrying a cross, candle and a censer at St. Francois de Sales. Congregants start a peaceful protests carrying palms and an altar boys carrying a cross, candle and a censer at St. Francois de Sales.
Congregants start a peaceful protests carrying palms and an altar boys carrying a cross, candle and a censer at St. Francois de Sales.

In November 2017, the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) of the Catholic Church  decided to organize peaceful protests to demand the implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement, a process meant to facilitate the presidential election. Protests were held on 31 December 2017, 21 January and 25 February 2018. These protests were met with brutal and systematic repression by the security forces. Fifteen people were killed, dozens were injured and many more arbitrarily arrested. ©REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

Riot policemen fire tear gas to disperse Catholic priest and demonstrators during a protest at Notre Dame du Congo Cathedral in Kinshasa on 21 January 2018. Riot policemen fire tear gas to disperse Catholic priest and demonstrators during a protest at Notre Dame du Congo Cathedral in Kinshasa on 21 January 2018.
Police coming toward peaceful protesters that are retreating in the parish at St. Francois de Sales on 21 January 2018. The armored vehicle was used to shoot inside the parish wounding two people and killing one young lady. Police coming toward peaceful protesters that are retreating in the parish at St. Francois de Sales on 21 January 2018. The armored vehicle was used to shoot inside the parish wounding two people and killing one young lady.
Police coming toward peaceful protesters that are retreating in the parish at St. Francois de Sales on 21 January 2018. The armoured vehicle was used to shoot inside the parish wounding two people and killing one young lady.

Security forces were deployed at parishes on the eve of the protests. In some instances, they blocked the parishioners’ access to the church.

Teargas thrown inside St. Francois de Sales parish’s compound on 25 February 2018. Teargas thrown inside St. Francois de Sales parish’s compound on 25 February 2018.
Teargas thrown inside St. Francois de Sales parish’s compound on 25 February 2018.
Father Jean was hit by a rubber bullet on his face during a peaceful demonstration at his parish St. Dominique on 31 December 2017. Father Jean was hit by a rubber bullet on his face during a peaceful demonstration at his parish St. Dominique on 31 December 2017.
Father Jean was hit by a rubber bullet on his face during a peaceful demonstration at his parish St. Dominique on 31 December 2017.
A young man receiving first aid at a medical center in Kinshasa. He was shot by the police during the protest on 21 January 2018. He told Amnesty International that the police took him to the medical center after taking all his money and cell phones. A young man receiving first aid at a medical center in Kinshasa. He was shot by the police during the protest on 21 January 2018. He told Amnesty International that the police took him to the medical center after taking all his money and cell phones.
A young man receiving first aid at a medical centre in Kinshasa. He was shot by the police during the protest on 21 January 2018. He told Amnesty International that the police took him to the medical centre after taking all his money and cell phones

Security forces used teargas and live bullets against unarmed protesters. In many cases, the officers did not engage in any dialogue with the protesters to try to understand the reason for their assembly as required by the international standards in policing protests. The police also used rubber bullets and caused serious injuries. 

Security forces used live bullets against peaceful protesters killing 15 individuals and wounding many more. At least until the time of interview by Amnesty International some of the survivors did not get medical assistance and still had bullets in their bodies.

A doctor trying to resuscitate Thérèse Déchade Kapangala. She was shot inside the parish at the door of St Francois de Sales Church on 21 January 2018. She was later pronounced dead at the Kintambo Hospital. A doctor trying to resuscitate Thérèse Déchade Kapangala. She was shot inside the parish at the door of St Francois de Sales Church on 21 January 2018. She was later pronounced dead at the Kintambo Hospital.
A doctor trying to resuscitate Thérèse Déchade Kapangala. She was shot inside the parish at the door of St Francois de Sales Church on 21 January 2018. She was later pronounced dead at the Kintambo Hospital.
On 21 January protest, this young woman was shot on her neck and the bullet was still in her body at the time of interview on (insert the date). She was told the hospital was not equipped to do surgery to remove the bullet. On 21 January protest, this young woman was shot on her neck and the bullet was still in her body at the time of interview on (insert the date). She was told the hospital was not equipped to do surgery to remove the bullet.
On 21 January protest, this young woman was shot on her neck and the bullet was still in her body at the time of interview in February 2018. She was told the hospital was not equipped to do surgery to remove the bullet.