DRC police open fire at anti-Kabila third term protest; Boko Haram let 20 Cameroon hostages go in army chase

Kabila has ruled over the vast and troubled central African country since 2001.

POLICE wounded two students Monday when they opened fire to disperse thousands of youths protesting against President Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo, witnesses and an AFP correspondent saw.

One student at a demonstration near the University of Kinshasa in the south of the capital was injured after a police officer warned his men would shoot if protesters failed to leave. Several witnesses said a second youth was also injured by gunfire.

Earlier, they tear-gassed several thousand students gathered on the day opposition parties had called a demonstration against legislation that would extend the president’s mandate.

In a similar scene at Victory Square in the heart of the city, police fired tear-gas at hundreds of youths throwing stones, AFP journalists and witnesses said.

From 8:00 am (0700 GMT), police and elite troops of the Republican Guard sealed off the parliament building, where the lower house on Saturday passed an electoral bill that would delay presidential and parliamentary polls beyond late 2016, when Kabila is meant to step down.

The legislation was due Monday to go for debate before the Senate, the upper house of parliament, while police and soldiers were stationed at every major road junction in the Gombe district, where ministries and administrative buildings are located.

Police also surrounded the headquarters of the third biggest opposition party, the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), after members of all the leading opposition parties urged Kinshasa residents “massively to occupy” parliament on Monday to hamper the Senate debate.

Kabila has ruled over the vast and troubled central African country since he was catapulted into office as a young soldier by Kinshasa politicians in 2001, days after his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was president at the time, was assassinated.

In 2006, three years after multiple peace deals ended the Second Congo War, which embroiled troops from at least six foreign countries, Kabila won the first free, democratic presidential poll since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Elections that year were enabled by a large UN peacekeeping force first deployed during conflict. The results were considered largely fair, but when Kabila won a second and final five-year term in 2011, his victory was disputed by domestic and foreign observers.

The opposition accuses Kabila of trying to delay elections by insisting that a new census must first take place—a process that analysts say would take as long as three years.

The DRC’s population is currently estimated at between 69.4 million (World Bank) and 77.4 million (the US Central Intelligence Agency).

Boko Haram

Elsewhere in Central Africa around 20 of the dozens of hostages seized by Boko Haram in Cameroon at the weekend were released by the Islamists as they were chased by the army, media reports and sources said on Monday.

In their latest cross-border raid on Sunday, the Nigeria-based jihadists seized at least 60 people in northern Cameroon, most of them women and children. But they released around 24 as they were chased by the army shortly after the raid, a source with a non-governmental organisation said on condition of anonymity. 

Cameron’s national radio and television reported that around 20 hostages were freed, but did not provide any details.

The weekend raid was the largest abduction ever carried out in Cameroon’s far north region by Boko Haram and comes amid mounting fears the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries.

Cameroon had come under attack last Monday when it said its troops repelled a raid by Boko Haram on a northern military base, killing 143 militants in the process. Brutal raids, massacres, suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings by the Islamists have claimed at least 13,000 lives and driven an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes, mainly in its stronghold in northeast Nigeria.

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