Congo orders internet and SMS cut ahead of anti-government demonstrations

Agence France-Presse

Security forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo fired shots in the air and dispersed a mass with tear gas in central Kinshasa, where banned marches had been called by the Catholic church against the extension of power of President Joseph Kabila.

At least 12 Catholic altar boys detained as they marched to demand President Joseph Kabila leave power and release political prisoners.

. He was supposed to step down after his second and final term came to an end in 2016 but the vote to replace him was not held. Voting has been put off for at least another year, adding to the anger among Congolese militias and citizens.

The police have banned demonstrations and said that all gatherings of more than five people will be dispersed. In addition, all internet and SMS services were ordered to be cut off until further notice.

Catholic churches and activists had called for peaceful demonstrations after Sunday mass, one year after the Catholic Church oversaw the signing of an accord that set a new election date to ease tensions in the mineral-rich country.

Constitutional term limits preclude Kabila from running for office again, with opponents now fearful that he may refuse to cede power, a move which could trigger a return to the bloodshed of the Congolese civil war that claimed the lives of millions of people.

Pierrot Mwanamputu, the national police spokesman, said one person had died in Kinshasa when security forces were attacked by young men, some of them carrying firearms and bladed weapons. The army and the police control and search the vehicles.

The country's electoral commission, however, later said that was not possible and scheduled the vote for December 23, 2018.

Under a deal reached exactly a year ago, Mr Kabila should have stepped down by the end of 2017, a year later than originally scheduled.

Neither the National Episcopal Conference nor the country's Vatican representative have commented on the planned rally. "Therefore, I do not recognise the authorisation requested".

But another dozen anti-Kabila activists from the Struggle for Change movement were arrested on Friday after a sit-down protest near the southern city of Kananga.

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