Goma – Four people including a baby were killed and at least 12 others injured as police clashed with protesters in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Goma on Monday, local officials said.
Two police officers were among the dead, said regional military spokesperson Colonel Sylvain Ekenge.
The demonstrators, protesting against rising crime, converged on arterial roads early in the morning, setting up barricades and burning tyres in the capital of North Kivu province.
Police fired tear gas and used live ammunition to disperse the crowd, an AFP reporter said.
The demonstrators were also protesting against the alleged presence of Rwandan police in Goma, which the authorities strongly denied.
“Two law enforcement officers were killed and two seriously injured,” General Ekenge told reporters. Police accused the protesters of stealing at least three weapons from them.
“These acts will not go unpunished,” Ekenge said.
A local community leader and a police source who requested anonymity said that one protester had been shot dead while riding a motorbike.
Serge Kilumbiro, manager of a hospital in Ndosho, one of Goma’s poorer districts, said the facility had received “12 injured and one dead, a child less than a year old who was shot while on the back of his mother, who was injured”.
The main market in the city centre was closed, as well as banks and schools, following the call for a general shutdown to denounce rising crime in the city of some 600 000 people.
President Felix Tshisekedi placed North Kivu and Ituri provinces under a “state of siege” in May to intensify a battle against rebels, with soldiers replacing civil servants in key positions.
The move was initially welcomed by many locals in a region that has suffered from militia-linked violence for more than two decades.
But continuing deadly violence has raised questions as to whether the strategy is working and protesters called for the state of siege to be re-evaluated.
The protesters also said they “categorically oppose the entry of Rwandan policemen in Goma” after the two countries signed a deal to combat cross-border trafficking.
“We are not going to support the arrival of the Rwandan police in Goma. What are they hiding from us?” said Paluku Issa, one of the demonstrators.
But DRC police chief General Dieudonne Amuli Bahigwa on Saturday said any suggestion that Rwandan soldiers would be charged with maintaining law and order in Goma was “a complete lie”.
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