Church backs Congo protesters, rights group says 42 killed

Church backs Congo protesters, rights group says 42 killed
# 22 January 2015 01:49 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Democratic Republic of Congo's powerful Catholic church on Wednesday backed ongoing protests against reforms that could extend President Joseph Kabila's rule, denouncing a government crackdown which a rights group said had killed 42 people, APA reports quoting Reuters.

As anti-government demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa entered their third day, the leader of Congo's Catholics, Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, strongly criticized any attempt to postpone a presidential election due next year.

Opposition supporters took to the streets on Monday to try to derail legislation that would require a national census before the vote. The opposition says the count would take years to organize in a poor nation the size of Western Europe, although the government denies this.

With more than 40 percent of Congo's 65 million people describing themselves as Catholic, the Church's stance is likely to bolster popular resistance to the reform. Western powers including France and the United States have called for restraint and backed timely elections.

The proposed change to the electoral code, approved by the lower house of parliament on Saturday, is expected to be voted on by the Senate on Thursday.

"We disapprove of and condemn any revision of the electoral law that aims to ... illegally postpone the holding of the elections in 2016," Mosengwo Pasinya said, adding that some politicians and the security services were stoking the violence.

"We condemn these actions that have caused deaths and make an urgent appeal: Stop killing your people; don't march on the ashes of your compatriots," his statement said.

In Kinshasa's main Mama Yemo hospital, witnesses said that members of the presidential guard entered a ward where wounded opposition supporters were being treated and opened fire, injuring several people. A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.