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1 dead as police break up banned marches in DR Congo

Policeman wounded in the Goma unrest following “resistance” to police efforts to disperse the marchers

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1 dead as police move to prevent banned marches

A protester died after being shot at a march in Goma in the DR Congo Sunday as police dispersed hundreds of anti-government protesters in Kinshasa and President Felix Tshisekedi warned against “anarchy”.

Police and organisers said the man was shot at a banned march in Goma in the east to mark the 59th anniversary of the central African country’s independence from Belgium. “One person seriously wounded by gunshot died in hospital,” national police spokesman Pierrot Mwanamputu said, while an opposition youth official said: “They fired real bullets.”

Mwanamputu said a policeman was wounded in the Goma unrest adding there was “resistance” to police efforts to disperse the marchers. Provincial police commissioner Placide Nyembo told AFP some of the demonstrators were armed.

An opposition youth official, Robert Zibawanza, said some militants torched a commuter minibus. In Kinshasa, police used tear gas to break up another banned march and about 50 officers blocked a car transporting former presidential candidate Martin Fayulu and ex-prime minister Adolphe Muzito.

An AFP journalist saw police using bayonets to puncture three of the car’s tyres. The two men emerged from the car to talk to Kinshasa police chief Sylvano Kasongo as some demonstrators tried to group around them.

On Saturday, Tshisekedi said he backed a decision to ban the march planned by his former opposition comrades, pointing to violence that broke out last weekend.

No repression

Speaking in his first major interview since taking office early this year, Tshisekedi – son of opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi – told French media: “We have the impression that there are some who confuse democracy with anarchy.”

He vowed there would be “no repression”, asserting that: “The security forces are trained to keep the peace.” Last Sunday, as opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba flew back into the country, police fired tear gas at rock-throwing protesters who targeted his convoy.

Before being elected president, Tshisekedi inherited the mantle of opposition leader from his father Etienne, who died in February 2017. Sunday’s march was called by Bemba and Fayulu, who maintains he was robbed of victory in the country’s December 30 presidential election.

Their Lamuka coalition said late Friday it would go ahead with the march to protest the constitutional court’s invalidation of the election of about 20 opposition lawmakers. Kasongo had warned that any gatherings of more than 10 people would be dispersed.

On Sunday, he said there had been “no major incidents” in Kinshasa where “all those arrested were immediately released” apart from one protester who remains in detention for “attacking and wounding” a police officer.

He was then jailed by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague for alleged atrocities carried out by his troops in the Central African Republic. But he was finally acquitted and freed on appeal in June 2018, when he returned to Belgium. Protests were also reported in the western city of Bandudu, the fief of both Fayulu and Muzito.

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Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization

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Measles has killed 2,758 people in DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a “massive mobilisation of funds.”

The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.

“Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces,” said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.

“Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan  — in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding,” it added.

MSF tweeted that without a “massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse.”

The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.

In the country’s east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.

Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in “anti-vaxxer” sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.

DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.

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76 people survive shipwreck in DR Congo

The motorised boat was carrying around 100 passengers when it capsized on the lake, near the eastern city of Bukavu.

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DR Congo boat accident claims 11 lives, dozens missing

76 people have survived a shipwreck on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a regional official said Saturday. However, more than a dozen people are feared to have drowned in the same incident.

The motorised boat was carrying around 100 passengers when it capsized on the lake, near the eastern city of Bukavu. 

“We have already registered 76 survivors,” said Swedi Basila, the regional transport minister for South Kivu province, adding that up to 20 people were still missing.

“No body has been found until now,” he told AFP.

The vessel had been on its way to the island of Idjwi when it hit a large rock and capsized, Basila said.

River transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways. Boat mishaps are common, typically caused by overloading of passengers and cargo.

Tolls are often high because there are no life jackets and many Congolese do not know how to swim.

In April, at least 167 people were killed in two accidents, prompting President Felix Tshisekedi to make it mandatory for boat passengers to have life jackets. 

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DR Congo authorities ban rallies in Kinshasa as tensions rise

Tensions rose in the capital after youths announced they would hold a protest against the candidacy of a former justice minister

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UDPS opposition party leader Felix Tshisekedi gestures to supporters as Authorities bans rallies

DR Congo authorities have banned political rallies this week in the capital Kinshasa because of tensions between supporters of President Felix Tshisekedi and those of former leader Joseph Kabila, police said Sunday.

Tshisekedi was elected in December to replace Kabila who presided over sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country for nearly two decades.

Tensions rose in the capital after the youth wing of Tshisekedi’s Democracy and Social Progress party (UDPS) announced it would hold a protest against the candidacy of a former justice minister for the senate presidency.

In response, the pro-Kabila Red Berets movement said it would hold a counter-march to support the candidacy of Alexis Thambwe, who is considered by many a hardliner from the Kabila regime.

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Kinshasa police chief General Sylvano Kasongo told state television that given the tensions in the capital, Kinshasa’s governor had banned all political rallies for this week. “He instructed the police to take all appropriate measures. Anyone who attempts to march or disturb the public order this week will find the police in their way,” he said.

UDPS youth wing spokesman Fils Mukoko told reporters they wanted to protest against seeing “the same faces in charge of the country’s institutions or in the government.”

Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition won comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament as well as provincial assemblies, and his supporters also dominated elections for the governorships across the country.

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None of the candidates the FCC presented for seven key Senate posts is from Tshisekedi’s CACH alliance in the legislature despite an agreement to work together between the two political blocs.

Six months after Tshisekedi’s inauguration and more than a month after the appointment of Prime Minister Ilunga Ilunkamba, who was proposed by Kabila, CACH and FCC negotiators are still struggling to agree on the composition of the government.

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