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  December 20, 2016

20 Killed In Protests Demanding Congo President Step Down and Respect Term Limits

Friends of the Congo's Maurice Carney says the US shares responsibility for Congo's latest crisis because it backed corrupt Congo leaders when it served their interests.
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JAISAL NOOR: Security forces tear-gassed and arrested youth gathered in the streets of Kinshasa on Tuesday for the second straight day, December 20th, to demand that Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila step down after his mandate expired overnight. The death toll is now 20, and possibly rising in the capital alone, according the UN. At least two civilians were killed over night when soldiers opened fire during clashes in the neighborhood of Kingabwa, two witnesses said.

The government spokesman could not be reached for comment and a police spokesman could not confirm the information according to Reuters. The UN has documented the arrest of over 100 opposition leaders and activists since December 16th. Despite the heavy police presence, limited protests started on Tuesday after an opposition leader called on the Congolese people to peacefully resist Kabila, who has remained in power beyond his constitutional mandate, with no election to pick a successor.

ETIENNE TSHISEKEDI: That is why I'm launching a solemn appeal, firstly to the Congolese people to...not recognise the illegal and illegitimate authority of Joseph Kabila and to peacefully resist [his] coup d'etat that is thus being accomplished with the support of the constitutional court.

JAISAL NOOR: Kabila has been in power since his father was assassinated in 2001, and remains deeply unpopular. His presidency has been marked with the lack of infrastructure investment, and critics say he pursued policies that did not benefit the majority of the people. He's polling at 7% nationally, that's according to a recent survey by the Congo Research Group.

On Tuesday sporadic gunfire crackled in several districts of the capital, a city of 12 million, as a measure to thwart dissent, fanned fears of more violence. Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo, says this crackdown is nothing new.

MAURICE CARNEY: Starting in January 2015, when the Congolese people rose up to defend democracy, to advance peace, to pursue justice, the Kabila regime unleashed the security forces on them, killing at least 44. Again, in September of this year, 19th and 20th, when the Congolese people stood up to say to President Kabila, "Listen, the Constitution says you're supposed to organize elections 90 days before you leave office and September 19th represents those 90 days. Why are you not organizing elections?" And he unleashed his security forces on them again, killing an estimated 50 or so. United Nations said that some of those deaths were execution-style.

JAISAL NOOR: The West has condemned Kabila for not abiding by the constitutionally mandated term limits and violently suppressing dissent, but Carney says it's too little too late.

MAURICE CARNEY: So-called international community has supported President Kabila - Joseph Kabila. And the Kabila of today, of 2016, is not fundamentally different from the Kabila of 2001 when he came into power. He's a rebel leader. He got to power by killing. You know, he's committed crimes, or the crimes that he's committed that he could be brought up for charges, of "Crimes Against Humanity" in the battle of Hingy-Tingy(?) in 1996, when Kabila was with the Rwandan troops and they're invading the Congo. So, to think that there's going to be a quick fix today after backing, supporting this individual for the past 15 years would be sadly mistaken.

JAISAL NOOR: Authorities have blocked most social media. Such restrictive measures have raised fears of more violence in a nation that has never seen a peaceful transfer of power, and suffered near constant war and instabilities, in the two decades since the fall of kleptocrat, Mobutu Sese Seko.

MAURICE CARNEY: The West supported Mobutu for over three decades. When they were ready to get rid of Mobutu they -- it triggered a whole -- chaos that lead to millions of people dying. Now they ready to... they supported Kabila for 15, 16 years and now they ready to let him go. And we just hope that the tragedy doesn't repeat itself to the scale and scope that it did when Mobutu left the scene.

JAISAL NOOR: And as we reported yesterday, Bloomberg has recently uncovered, what many in Congo have long suspected, Kabila has been enriching himself and family at the expense of the Congolese people, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.




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