Opposition activists released in DRC

2018-05-02 12:00


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Police in DR Congo on Tuesday released a group of activists who had earlier been arrested as they sought to hold a rally, the mayor of Goma said.

"They were released," Timothee Mwissa Kyesse said, without giving further details.

Struggle for Change (Lucha) member Ghislain Muhiwa said that "a total of 27 people" had been detained, including a leader who had received a prominent US award.

"They found that we had not committed any offence," said Muhiwa.

Those arrested earlier on Tuesday included Rebecca Kavugho, 23, who received an International Woman of Courage award from the US State Department last year, Muhiwa said.

"These young people were disturbing public order," a police commander told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They will be questioned and then prosecuted."

Kyesse told AFP "any kind of demonstration" was banned in Goma.

Lucha, a non-violent group whose stronghold is Goma, is prominent in the campaign against President Joseph Kabila, who is facing a wave of protest against his rule.

Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to leave office when his term expired in December 2016.

Elections, twice delayed, are due to be held on the 23rd of December, but opposition groups say they have little hope that the vote will be fair and credible.

Public rallies have been banned since September 2016, when dozens of demonstrators were killed.

Last year, at least 47 people were killed, according to a UN report seen by AFP last month.

In a major exception, opposition supporters were allowed to stage a rally on 24 April in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the east of the vast country, however, police are still breaking up demonstrations and carrying out arrests, campaigners said.

The United Nations, along with the United States, Britain, France and the European Union, has repeatedly warned the government about repression, and also urged the opposition to protest peacefully.

In addition to a deep political crisis, DR Congo is struggling with armed conflict in its vast, lawless east, which is under the sway of multiple rebel groups.

Lucha said it wanted to demonstrate on Tuesday - the sixth anniversary of its founding - to help draw attention to "massacres" by militias in the Beni region, north of Goma.

However, the city's mayor said that the authorities had banned all rallies after a shootout in a district on the outskirts of Goma on Sunday in which seven people died and 18 were injured.

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