Kinshasa – Democratic Republic of Congo police fired tear gas on Saturday as ruling party activists tried to stop tens of thousands of opposition members from marching to seek a neutral election commission.
The opposition demonstrators tore down a statue of President Felix Tshisekedi as well as a flag of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party.
UDPS members tried to stop the march and police fired tear gas to disperse them and let the demonstration continue.
The demonstration was headed by Martin Fayulu, who contested the 2018 presidential election, and former prime minister Adolphe Muzito.
“We don’t want a politicised CENI (National Independent Electoral Commission),” a banner held by a demonstrator read.
“We need a new law on the CENI excluding politicians,” said another.
The selection process for commission members has been at a standstill for several weeks.
Fayulu accused the regime of having imposed misery and hunger on the Congolese people, “because it is immersed in corruption”.
The protesters voiced their opposition against proposals from six religious groups to install Denis Kadima as head of CENI, accusing him of corruption and closeness to Tshisekedi.
Fayulu warned that if Kadima is given the post he and his supporters would go to the parliament building to “prevent preparations for a new electoral fraud”.
A closed plenary session was underway at the National Assembly to ratify the minutes of the appointment of the CENI members by civil society and political parties, after several weeks of stalemate caused by the refusal of the Catholic Church’s National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the ECC, the largest Protestant church, to endorse Kadima.
Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019, succeeding Joseph Kabila.
The next presidential election is set for December 2023.
Picture: Getty Images