Kinshasa – Police confronted protesters at the University of Kinshasa on Monday where students gathered to condemn the alleged police killing of one of their classmates.
According to witnesses, Honore Shama was filming a video in the streets of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday when a policeman who had asked him to put on a mask shot him at point-blank range.
Protesters holding palm fronds and tree branches gathered on campus and tried several times to march beyond its gates but were turned back by riot police.
“Eight students were arrested and we are demanding their unconditional release,” literature student Philippe Kasongo said, adding that others had been wounded.
Several groups of riot police deployed along the road leading to the campus where all entrances were blocked.
“It is very painful to see a student get killed by an officer like this,” said literature student Olga Kinaki, “I am still very shocked to see them come to stop our march. Don’t we have the right to protest the killing of our friend?”
In the district adjoining the campus, other students tried to carry on with the march, yelling hostile chants at the police and urging bystanders to take off their masks.
“They’re killing us because of masks, so we won’t wear them anymore,” said a law student who would not give his name.
“We don’t want to see anyone wear them anymore. Take off your mask!” he said, while his friends grabbed the masks of passers-by who resisted.
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Refusal to wear a mask is punishable by a fine of 10 000 Congolese francs ($5, four euros).
In Kinshasa, police are regularly accused of harassment and of pocketing the mask fines they collect.
On Sunday, Kinshasa police chief Sylvano Kasongo told AFP that the policeman allegedly responsible for Shama’s death had fled and that the city’s police were searching for him.
DRC has registered 48,503 Covid-19 cases and 1,023 deaths since the start of the pandemic in the country of some 84 million people.
Vaccinations have been halted in the country since July 10 when the AstraZeneca vaccines in stock passed their expiration date.
Picture: Getty Images