Six dead in DR Congo protest crackdown: UN

Riot policemen fire teargas canisters to disperse demonstrators during a protest organized by Catholic activists in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 21, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 January 2018

Six dead in DR Congo protest crackdown: UN

KINSHASA: Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, the UN said, as the authorities cracked down on a banned protest against President Joseph Kabila.
Witnesses said security forces fired live rounds and tear gas in Kinshasa to disperse demonstrators who had gathered after Catholic church leaders called for a mass peaceful demonstration against Kabila’s 17-year rule.
The UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said six people were killed in Kinshasa and 49 others injured nationwide in anti-Kabila rallies.
It added that 94 people were arrested across the country.
A spokesman for the national police told state television that “two people were killed” in the capital, while nine policemen were wounded, two of them seriously.
Of the two killed according to the authorities’ toll, one was shot at close range by a police officer, the presidency’s spokesman Yvon Ramazani said in a call to AFP.
“The policeman is under arrest and must be brought to justice,” he said.
A 16-year-old girl died after shots were fired from an armored vehicle at the entrance to a church in the Kitambo area of the capital, Jean-Baptise Sondji, a former minister and government opponent, told AFP.
Sunday’s bloody crackdown comes three weeks after a similar march on New Year’s Eve ended in deadly violence, during which organizers said a dozen people were killed.
“An armored car passed in front of the church. They began firing live bullets, I protected myself,” Sondji, who is also a doctor, said by telephone.
“A girl who was at the left side door of the church was hit by a bullet,” he said, adding that she was already dead when she was taken by taxi to hospital.
Government minister Felix Kabange Numbi told AFP that “hundreds of people recruited by the parish priest of Saint-Christophe tried to enter” his residence.
“My guard fired warning shots before the arrival of reinforcements who arrested 145 people,” he said.
Tensions were also reported by AFP journalists in the major cities of Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Goma, Beni and Mbuji Mayi.
The Internet, email and social media messaging networks were cut in the capital ahead of the march.
Security forces installed roadblocks on major routes and armed officers conducted ID checks.
The church had called for rallies around the country despite a government ban on all demonstrations since September 2016, when anti-Kabila protests turned violent.
The head of the Muslim community, Cheikh Ali Mwinyi M’Kuu had urged the authorities on Saturday to allow the march to take place.
“If they decide to repress, there will be no peace. But if they let the march take place, they will respect the constitution and peace will prevail.”
The previous anti-Kabila march, on December 31, descended into a bloody crackdown after police and security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
Protest organizers said 12 people were killed, while the United Nations reported at least five dead. The authorities said no deaths that day were linked to the demonstration.
The country’s powerful Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to nationally enjoy broad credibility, condemned what it called “barbarism.” The UN and France also sounded their concern over the death toll.
A group of eight intellectuals have joined the church in calling for the march to be peaceful.
The so-called “secular committee of coordination” has called on people to march after mass “with our peace branches, our bibles, our rosaries, our crucifixes, to save the Congo.”
Arrest warrants have been issued against at least five members of the committee, a magistrate told AFP, prompting them to go into hiding.
The committee has called for the release of political prisoners, to allow the return of exiled political opponents and, above all, a guarantee that Kabila will stand down and not seek a third term.
The president, 46, has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticized for corruption, repression and incompetence.
His constitutional term in office expired in December 2016 but he stayed on, stoking a bloody spiral of violence.
Under an agreement brokered by the Catholic Church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017.
The authorities later said organizational problems meant that the vote would be held on December 23, 2018 — a postponement that has angered Western nations, but one that they have reluctantly accepted.


Arabs in Middle East know the US election will affect their lives, experts say

Updated 29 October 2020

Arabs in Middle East know the US election will affect their lives, experts say

  • Editor-in-chief and columnist take part in US radio discussion of Arab News/YouGov survey of opinions on the presidential candidates
  • Whether Biden triumphs or Trump wins second term, the poll suggests most people in region want Washington to maintain a tough stance on Iran

CHICAGO: Arabs in the Middle East have a direct stake in the outcome of next week’s US presidential election. That was the conclusion reached on Wednesday by the guests who took part in a US radio discussion of a recent YouGov poll, commissioned by Arab News, that asked people across the region for their opinions on the candidates and their policies.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas and columnist Dalia Al-Aqidi agreed that one of the key conclusions that can be drawn from the “Election 2020: What do Arabs Want?” survey is that most people in the region believe the election will have an effect on their lives.
About 40 percent of those polled said Democratic challenger Joe Biden is the better choice for the region, compared with only 12 percent who preferred Trump. However, 53 percent said they had opposed the policies of Biden’s former running mate, President Barack Obama, who is currently on the campaign trail to rally support for his former vice president.
“What is very interesting about the study we did this time around is that while the majority thinks that Biden might be better for the region (about half of the respondents) don’t even know who Biden is,” Abbas said during the “The Ray Hanania Show” on WNZK AM 690 Radio in Detroit, which is part of the US Arab Radio Network. “They are voting for a candidate they don’t know just so they don’t vote for Trump.”
Biden’s close association with Obama is seen by many Arabs as a negative factor.
“You cannot separate Joe Biden from Barack Obama,” said Abbas. “Yet even people who said Biden is better for the region, 58 percent of them said that they would want Biden to distance himself from Obama’s policies, and they think Obama left the region in a worse-off situation.”
Al-Aqidi said it is unrealistic to expect that Biden would disregard his personal history with Obama.
“This is impossible — you cannot expect Biden to distance himself from Obama,” she said. “Actually, Obama is helping and trying to save Biden in the past two weeks, campaigning with him.
“Even in Biden’s platform, it always goes back to ‘I was a VP and as a VP I did this.’ It would be extremely hard for Biden to distance himself … if Biden wins, he will be a shadow of Obama.”
The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit, asked 3,097 people in 18 Arab countries about their opinions on a number of issues relating to the US presidential election.
The continuation of Washington’s recent tough stance on Iran was one of the top issues that respondents said the winner should focus on. Notably, the war posture adopted against Iran by the Trump administration, and the strict sanctions it has imposed on the regime in Tehran, received strong support from people polled in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three nations that have been severely affected by the regional activities of the Iranian state.
“This is not a marginal issue for people living in the Middle East,” said Abbas. “You just have to look at countries, any country in the Middle East: where you find destruction, you will find Iranian fingerprints all over.”
The main issue is not religion or differences between Sunnis and Shi’ites, he added, it is Iranian interference in the affairs of other nations.
“As the former ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled, said, Saudi Arabia used to send tourists to Lebanon — Iran sends terrorists,” Abbas said.
“For people who have short-term memories let me remind them it was the Iranians who attacked the US Marines in Beirut. It’s the Iranians who transformed (Beirut) from a tourist destination … today, Lebanon is (experiencing) one of its worst-ever economic crises and it does not look like there is a way out for it.”
Arabs in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are therefore very supportive of Trump’s tough approach to Iran, he added.
“Nobody is safe from the Iranian tentacles,” Abbas said. “This is a mad regime.”
On another important regional issue, slightly more than half of the Arabs polled said they do not support a bigger role for Washington in the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis. However, the proportion of Palestinians living in the occupied territories who favor greater US involvement was higher.
“I think the Trump administration succeeded in this issue (pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians) more than any other previous administration,” said Al-Aqidi. “The US approach now is extremely different and it is driven by number one, the economy.”
She added that Trump’s strategy of brokering the recent agreements by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel was “the result of a different strategy.”
“The Ray Hanania Show,” which is sponsored by Arab News, is broadcast on WNZK AM 690, on the US Arab Radio Network, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST on Wednesdays. There is also a live simulcast of the show on the Arab News Facebook page.