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Cameroon criticised for using excessive force on protesters

Images on social media showed violent confrontations with the security forces in Douala

Kathleen Ndongmo

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Cameroon police forces patrol at a traffic intersection in Douala - AFP

The EU on Friday criticised Cameroon for using excessive force to disperse a string of weekend protests over which more than a 140 people were arrested, including the opposition leader, and charged with insurrection. 

Saturday’s protests were organised by the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), the main opposition party whose leader Maurice Kamto claimed he was he was defrauded of victory in October’s presidential elections.

The unauthorised rallies took place in the capital Yaounde as well as in Douala and other towns and cities, prompting a crackdown by the security forces.

The opposition had said 200 people were arrested. Communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi on Friday put the figure at 147.

Images on social media showed violent confrontations with the security forces in Douala, the economic capital, where the MRC said “many people had sustained bullet wounds”.

But the government put the overall number of people injured at six, insisting that its forces only used rubber bullets and not live fire. 

“Demonstrations recently took place in many towns in Cameroon which gave rise to a disproportionate use of force by the security forces and multiple arrests, including of the leaders of the main opposition party,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said in a statement on Friday.

“Finding a solution to the challenges faced by the country can only be achieved through dialogue in a calm and inclusive atmosphere where fundamental rights and the rule of law are respected,” she said.

Following the protests, several senior party figures were arrested, including Kamto, prompting Amnesty International to warn about “an escalating crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders and activists in Cameroon”.

Prosecutors have levelled eight charges against Kamto and other detainees, including “group rebellion, hostility to the homeland (and) insurrection,” their lawyers have said. 

Thirty-four detainees appeared in court on Friday on charges of attending an unauthorised demonstration, preventing the security forces from doing their job and not dispersing when they fired warning shots. 

All pleaded not guilty. 

Two journalists who were arrested on Monday evening were released on Friday, their newspaper, Le Jour, told AFP.

President Paul Biya, now 85, was reelected in October for a seventh consecutive term with 71 percent, while Kamto took just 14 percent, prompting his supporters to stage a series of protests over what they claim was an “electoral hold-up”. 

Biya has ruled Cameroon since 1982 with support from the army, government administrations and the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) that he created in 1985.

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Central Africa News

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.

Read also: GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

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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