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Catholic official condemns 'barbaric' DRC violence

Catholic official condemns 'barbaric' DRC violence
From Al Jazeera - January 3, 2018

A Catholic Church leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has condemned the state's response to protests over the weekend as "barbarism", aftera dozen people were killed in the violence, according to recent estimates from protest organisers.

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the archibishop of Kinshasa, said the deadly crackdown on protesters who marched in the capital and other cities on Sunday has "created a sociopolitical malaise that cuts across our dear and beautiful country.

"We can only denounce, condemn and stigmatise the actions of our so-called valiant men in uniform who unfortunately are carrying out - no more, no less - barbarism," Monsengwo said in a statement.

The death toll of mass anti-government rallies has risen to 12,Jonas Tshombela, a spokesman for the protest organisers, told AFP news agency.

Eleven people were killed in Kinshasa and one was killed in the city of Kananga, Tshombela said.

The protests were called for by a Catholic Church committee in the Congo, and supported by opposition groups, civil society organisations, and other activists.

In his letter, Monsengwo said "it is no longer a secret to anyone that the general climate in the country, and in the capital in particular, is characterised by renewed fear and anxiety, uncertainty and even panic."

Scores of people were injured and more than 120 were arrested at the rallies after state police and military forces shot tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at the protesters.

Monsengwo said security forces prevented worshippers from reaching churches for Sunday mass and fired tear gas in different parishes across Kinshasa.

He said soldiers entered churches "under the pretext of searching for troublemakers".

Security forces also fired live ammunition on "Christians holding bibles, rosaries and crucifixes in their hands" and arrested priests and worshippers, Monsengwo said.

Government response

Laurent Mende, a government spokesperson, said Monsengwo's statement was a "political declaration" that lacked in facts.

Mende accused Monsengwo of "inciting ... the Congolese people to hatred and confrontation".

He said Congo security forces respected international law in dealing with events on December 31.

The government puts Sunday's death toll at five people, Mende told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

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